December 3, 2006

Those contemptuous atheists... why won't they be kind?

Nicholas Kristof -- in a TimesSelect column -- wants atheists to back off and quit pressuring religious people about their beliefs:
[There is] an increasingly assertive, often obnoxious atheist offensive led in part by [Richard] Dawkins — the Oxford scientist who is author of the new best seller “The God Delusion.” It’s a militant, in-your-face brand of atheism that he and others are proselytizing for....

[T]he tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is ... contemptuous and even ... a bit fundamentalist.

“These writers share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Indeed, one could speak of a secular fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism. This may be one of those cases where opposites converge.”...

Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let’s hope that the Atheist Left doesn’t revive them. We’ve suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.
The Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars? In-your-face atheists are "the Atheist Left"? Is this just a right-left political battle? I think at least some of this is a genuine debate about religion. Whether it's a cloaked political debate, a mixed political-religious debate, or purely a debate about religion, there is a place for pointed humor and harsh argument. I generally favor respecting religious beliefs. It's usually best not to go at religious people with mockery and contempt. For one thing, if you want to persuade people, it's usually better not to demonize them or call them idiots. But it's also a bad idea to stir up a lot of free-floating hostility. Nevertheless, we do need some strong voices in the mix, and I'd hate to live in a world where all the opinion was tamped down and moderated. I just hope that those who go in for mockery do it well. Dawkins is pretty good at it. He just needs more smart, tough people on the other side to joust with him.

Note: In an amazing deviation from the usual NYT approach, Kristof's column contains an actual hot link that sends you away from the NYT website. (It takes you to Why Won't God Heal the Amputees? (Which is a damned good question.)) The link is right in the second paragraph, demonstrating an astounding trust in the reader's ability to remember to come back and finish reading the column. Talk about faith!

ADDED: Like me, Kevin Drum is incredulous about Kristof's assertion that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars.

152 comments:

SteveR said...

I don't have time for a long comment, I'm getting ready to go to church with my family. For an athiest to claim they know enough about the universe to know that there is no God, gee that sounds like God, they know everything.

Anyway about your "damned good question" one partial reason is if God performed miracles all the time it would not take much faith to believe in him.

Anyway I look forward to reading the comments later

Molon_Labe_Lamp said...

If you read any of Dawkins articles you get a sense of his strong contempt for religions. I don't think what he's looking for is counterparts to joust with. For him there is no discussion, only certainty.

Oddly enough he approaches his atheism with the very zeal he derides the religious for. I think it's quite easy to argue that Dawkins is himself a religious zealot.

Which begs the question of why most humans are hardwired to need a devotion to some philosophy to define themselves. His choosing to militantly advocate for nothing seems slightly crazier than advocating for something.

Why all the effort to steal meaning from so many peoples lives?

Liam Colvin said...

You might want to rephrase that question to "Why should God heal the amputees?".

I love when rational people try to justify (or not justify) natural events based on their "understanding" of God's mind. Our logic is probably not God's, and basing a hatred or disbelif of God on your personal wants/needs is childish at best.

It's like that old theological riddle: Since God is omnipotent, could he make a stone that he couldn't move?

ploopusgirl said...

well.. it could have something to do with the fact that sometimes religious people say things like this:

"He was young and handsome--his mother's hope...
He became corrupted! Soon his crime makes him old before his time. His back becomes hunched.
A devouring fire burns up his entrails; he suffers from horrible stomach pains.
See his eyes, once so pure, so brilliant; their gleam is gone! A band of fire surrounds them.
He can no longer walk; his legs give way.
Dreadful dreams disturb his rest; he cannot sleep.
His teeth become rotten and fall out.
His chest is burning up. He coughs up blood.
His hair, once so beautiful, is falling out like an old man's; early in life, he is becoming bald.
He is hungry, and he wants to eat; no food will stay in his stomach.
His chest is buckling. He vomits blood.
His entire body is covered with pustules; he is a horrible sight!
A slow fever consumes him. He languishes; his entire body is burning up
His body is becoming completely stiff! His limbs stop moving.
He raves; he stiffens in anticipation of coming death.

At the age of 17, he expires in horrible torments.

"The Fatal Consequences of Masturbation"

HaloJonesFan said...

ploopusgirl: I think I'll go dredge up some ridiculous environmentalist screed just for balance. Or maybe I'll go get some of Stalin's rantings about collectivization.

The point being that stupid people say stupid things, and that religious people are not unique in that regard.

As for Dawkins: He's the literary equivalent of a troll poster.

Ann Althouse said...

The point about amputees -- and the reason it's a good question -- is that all the claimed miracle cures deal with internal disorders that the body might have cured in some way other than by divine intervention. The amputee's prayer is never answered and a body can't grow a new leg on its own: is that just a coincidence?

Ghlade said...

Uh, environmentalist != atheist.

Dave said...

Some bodies can grow new legs on their own. Just not mammals' bodies. There are some reptiles and/or amphibians that have this ability.

Mack said...

With all due respect to the religious out there (and I agree that people should try to be respectful), this is such an old and tired, relatavistic, and completely bogus comparison.

"Look, both atheists and religious fundamentalists are strongly opinionated! Well, I guess it must be a wash then, better stop paying attention..."

Really, I would love if Kristoff or Mr. Pew Forum could explain the "dogmas" of atheism, compared to those of religious fundamentalists. Evolution? Yes, most atheists believe in evolution. Science? Yes, most atheists believe in science. So I guess that's no different than believing something because a 2000 year old book says it happened?

Kristoff can snicker at the comparisons all he wants, but calling atheists fundamentalist in their approach is simply -- literally! -- an effort to equate something with its complete opposite.

kettle said...

"Key Point
If God intervenes with cancer patients to remove cancerous tumors, then God should also intervene with amputees to regenerate lost limbs."

This site is rather wordy, but not terribly clever... One cannot reason the way to or from god. Science has nothing to say on this issue, and to be frank I don't quite understand the need to supplant 'religion' with 'science'. I find the argument that either one would better serve mankind in his endeavors to get along with his fellows highly suspect.

Southpark recently wrapped up their latest season with a thrilling three-part series on this subject. They made Mr. Dawkins the unwitting gay lover of 'Mrs.' Garrison, which turned out to rather hilarious effect.

kettle said...

"The amputee's prayer is never answered and a body can't grow a new leg on its own: is that just a coincidence?"

It may be a good question, but answering it is not the province of science, or any form of empiricism for that matter. Anyway, it most certainly does not prove any kind of causation. The question is 'does God exist?' and, from where I'm sitting, the reams of prose the linked site go nowhere towards proving anything in either direction.

Anonymous said...

Professor Althouse wrote:
. Nevertheless, we do need some strong voices in the mix, and I'd hate to live in a world where all the opinion was tamped down and moderated. I just hope that those who go in for mockery do it well. Dawkins is pretty good at it. He just needs more smart, tough people on the other side to joust with him.

Nope. Call me cynical, but I've long suspected that there's a strong corelation between the venom of Professor Dawkins' "contemptuous" rhetoric and the promotions tours for his latest book, television program etc. Now, I'm not naive about the nature of life as a 'public intellectual' trying to get attention in the 27/7/52 media soup: Civil, thoughtful and nuanced just doesn't cut it if you want to get on the Rolodex of every rentaquote hack, op-ed page editor and talk show booker on your book tour route. And perhaps that's just the price you've got to pay for an open marketplace of ideas. I'm just not so sure.

Kirby Olson said...

Dawkins believes that the humanities should be shut down, too.

Not just religion, but the humanities.

He doesn't think that they impart anything that has scientific rigor.

He seems to be a fairly boring clod. I read his book on the correct interpretation of rainbows (Keats had it all wrong. I got the impression that he felt that the humanities: Shakespeare, the Bible, etc. were a lot hooey, and that only the science lab could impart truth.

He's a sort of Dexter, I guess. It's kind of fun that he thinks he's right about everything. He reminds me of a kid I knew in high school who had perfect SATs in both math and verbal and then worked at NASA but finally hanged himself. An obnoxious guy who was really full of himself. One of the funniest things he said was when he screamed at some Goth chick who was doing horoscopes at lunch that it's the doctor looming over the baby at birth that would have more of a gravitational field than any given planet!

He was just red in the face over the fact that she was doing horoscopes.

Pure types like Dawkins are rare, but it's fun when they do exist.

Paddy O. said...

There are a good number of smart, tough people on the other side. But they don't get the press because, frankly, Falwell is the more accepted caricature.

I guess maybe the press doesn't find John Polkinghorne or Hugh Ross, for instance, as interesting.

Those who engage with Dawkins on his own level are around, and quite busy in the conversation. Inherit the Wind, however, is the standard narrative on this topic, and most folks don't want to hear otherwise.

Mack said...

Kettle,

How much did you read? I found the site a few months ago, and was struck by his extremely crisp and clever writing. At the time it was actually called "Why Does God Hate Amputees," but I guess he decided to be more respectful of the religious beliefs.

I highly recomend the site; it tries very hard to be pointed without being a screed. Contrary to Molon's suggestion, it is very clearly aimed at a respectful dialogue. You just can't help that there is such a huge gulf between the two groups.

Ann,

But if God healed an amputee we'd know that he exists! Can't have that. Of course, God wasn't above doing irrefutable miracles in biblical times, but clearly he's changed his style.

In any case, conceding the power of the "God works in mysterious ways" argument, I'd ask the question more generally: Why is every explanation for God's behavior completely compatible with him not actually existing?

Cedarford said...

I agree that the site is very, very good in positing rational inquiry on various religious beliefs. The amputee question is just one - but one of the best.

History, though, both debunks religion and suggests there is something to it - though Dawkins and others try debunking that as well.

History shows the Jews of long ago asking for stuff from the Main Man, and constantly getting it in supernatural ways that show to their own eyes clear evidence of Divine intercession. Dawkins and others would believe too, if they saw the Red Sea part, as Hebrews claimed it did when they faced mortal danger. However, since Old Testament times, God has not been so kind to Jews - yes to individual temporal achievement and the gaining of great wealth - no to any measure of peace and security. Christians who argue that God's favor was transferred to them and the Covenent of Moses broken with Christ's arrival have difficulty explaining why the Muslims then wiped out half of the original Dominion of Christ. The Muslims in turn seeth with rage - in no small part because their civilization that supposedly had all the blessings of Allah over the infidel was wrecked by Mongols, nasty internal divisions, and made into a rump culture of scant attainment compared to the Rise of Asia and the West.

Yet despite all that, when man sets up in a new location, no matter how remote - all races of mankind have a religion that comes with them and manifests in the first huts built or hunt trophies memorized in charcoal on cave walls. Religion appears intrinsic to mankind and his health and his flourishing through multiple generations. Purely secular cultures or those with pro forma religions not backed with true Faith seem to die out. From invaders imbued with religion to the current belief that secular societies will lose the demographic challenge to religious ones moving in.
Perhaps serious, deep reflection does show a non-existent God, a now-disengaged God long since abandoning the Jews, the Muslims, the Easter Island inhabitants version..But other serious reflections show "something is there". Something that allows religious societies to have advantage over atheistic ones.

So I - like all - must come to grips with Faith. A Catholic and skeptic of much that was taught, I somehow believed without anyone telling me to, even as a small child. Others around me with the same information, the same sort of parents guidance, didn't. Even where religion is a target of eradication - by Bolshies then Chicoms determined to wipe out Christianity, later Budhism and Confucianism and Islam - a substantial part of the population remains deep believers.

And even the bloodiest, worst Communist leaders have occasionally backed down in the face of this. Many believe the one thing Stalin did that helped his cause more than anything in WWII was rejecting his atheist Russian and secular Jewish commissars continuing their efforts to wipe out Christian faith, and re-legalizing observance of Russian Orthodox religion, in 1941. A distinct, evil, non-believer, Stalin was also a former seminary student who knew the power of Faith as an observor..and knew that much of his masses were missing their prime motivator and sustainer of strength and morale.

And even in China's worst years, Christians have emerged and today the Chinese Christian Faith continues to grow.
It is a deep-rooted need in mankind that stems from truth or some sort of evolutionary advantage.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, But if God healed an amputee we'd know that he exists! Can't have that. Of course, God wasn't above doing irrefutable miracles in biblical times, but clearly he's changed his style."

Frankly, I'm more impressed by a God that got the whole universe working according to one set of rules than one who has to keep intervening and tweaking his creation. The fewer miracles the better. I also think it's more impressive that a God would create us and leave us alone without doing special tricks to get our attention. He shouldn't have to beg for respect. The universe is enough. I'm impressed.

Harry Eagar said...

I guess I missed the Kristof column where he castigated the Christian evangelizers (Muslims, too) for their in-your-face insults and hectoring of unbelievers.

The number of well-known Dawkinslike militant atheists can be counted on the thumbs of two hands. The number of insulting, self-satisfied religious zealots are in the scores of millions just in this country.

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

Dawkins is the sort that I like to call a "Leftamentalist."

Jim Hu said...

Dawkins is quite good at popularizing interesting ideas about evolution and genetics. I have no interest in his new book. I read the book on Unweaving the Rainbow, and IMHO the Keats-bashing was against the idea that science strips humanity of the senses of wonder and beauty. Richard Feynman had some good versions of this.

But Dawkins goes past explaining whyhe isn't religious to belittling those who are. As an atheist, it's probably similar to what many Christians feel when egregious idiocies are reported from Falwell, Robertson et al.

The obnoxious dogma that some atheists hold is shared with the noxious fundamentalists. It's: I'm better than you because of my beliefs

word verification:omitjs...close to but not quite omitjc!

Paddy O. said...

"The number of well-known Dawkinslike militant atheists can be counted on the thumbs of two hands."

I'm sure the citizens of China and the ol' USSR, with its satellite nations would be shocked to know all the trouble was caused by 2 thumbs. But, being super geniuses I'm sure these 2 thumbs found a way to transcend time and space for the purpose of enforcing the official atheism.

Old Dad said...

I'm all for robust, no holds barred debate, but there's a time and place for different rhetorical strategies. Dawkis can be obnoxious and offensive, but he can also be funny and compelling.

My sense is that we're too easily offended. On the other hand, no doubt much of our public discourse is coarse and offensive.

Perhaps, a little more common sense and common decency are in order. Abraham Lincoln knew that high falutin langage would not persuade the Clary's Grove boys, and so he wrestled their champion and whupped him good. My guess is that a fair amount of salty language was exchanged.

On the other hand, Lincoln used a different approach at Gettysburg.

Knowing the difference is everything.

Fitz said...

A column like this is a LOT more sophisticated than we are giving it credit for.

This is part of a recent trend in articles that hope to claim “Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let’s hope that the Atheist Left doesn’t revive them. “

They are going to (and are) try and spread the meme that “the culture war thing is over, we need to “move past” the divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage”

This article positions itself & the author as the “truly moderate” – by placing the Dawkins Atheism as one end of an extreme we need to move away from. (& the religious right as the other)

Barrack O’Bama is attempting the same (along with Hillary)

See the idea is; you claim to want to have “reasoned discourse” and bring back “civility” and “unite” --- and all the time you’re advancing your causes that lay at the heart of the culture war.

Gay marriage continues to advance through the courts & abortion fails to meet with any serious regulation or moderation.

“We’ve suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.”

See… religion is a red hearing in this argument. Its prominence is not the driver of this debate any more than atheism is. The moral questions (divide) over a series of fundamental values are. It’s a moral question in the end, just as legitimate for debate and discussion as the death penalty or taxing the rich or health care and so on.

But articles like this on help portray the opposition to the left as unworthy of the public square and the voice they exercise.


Its like saying, Lets call a truce guys- we will muzzle one (interesting I think) scientist discussing a philosophical point & You stop caring about the wholesale re-definition of are most important social institution & the moral worth of gestating fetuses in their Mothers wombs.


“These writers share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Indeed, one could speak of a secular fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism. This may be one of those cases where opposites converge.”...

Sorry no Sale…. Let the atheists speak all they want!!!! It’s an important and worthwhile discussion that we have not heard enough direct conversation about.

This has very little to do with the paramount cause’s of family formation and protecting innocent human life however. Atheists & Believers alike BOTH have a tremendous stake in such pressing and contentious issues.

Mack said...

The obnoxious dogma that some atheists hold is shared with the noxious fundamentalists. It's: I'm better than you because of my beliefs

How does it assert your superiority simply to say you think someone is wrong?

The problem is that religion plays an extremely prominent role in public life, which even moderate religionists insist that it should. Well, atheists in the Dawkins camp disagree. Why shouldn't they voice that opinion?

Daryl Herbert said...

Why is every explanation for God's behavior completely compatible with him not actually existing?

Not just compatible, but entirely consistent (i.e., our expectations are the identical, not merely that the same outcomes are possible in both instances, but perhaps with varying degrees of probability)

tiggeril said...

I don't see why assuming that there is no God is any more or less arrogant than assuming that there is.

Birkel said...

Wasn't Ann Coulter's point that Liberalism is a godless religion? Somebody should ask Kristof.

Seven Machos said...

What I hate about atheists is that they set up this completely false strawman about what a religious believer is, and tar the strawman with all manner of charges.

The whole ridiculous website our hostess led us to appears to assume that Christians believe that God is actively working in the world, directly, without divine agents and that religion has never considered the problem of evil in the world.

Is this some kind of fantastic joke? I suggest that the Amputees website guy has never read the Bible seriously, or even Bible criticism. Believe the Bible or don't, but any intelligent peruser of the Book should note quickly that God rarely does anything. It is humans who act in the world. It is humans who do good. It is humans who do evil. If you want the amputees "healed," get off your lazy ass and contribute to the exciting field of prosthetics.

My favorite, though, is the prosyletizing charge. In my experience, it is atheists who are constantly nagging about beliefs in God, and suing about it. How is that not prosyletizing?

If you don't like religion, ignore it.

knoxgirl said...

An awful lot of vocal "atheism" is directed at Christianity. They always have much less to say about radical Islam. I think that's partly why it's seen as a leftist/political movement rather than neutral commentary or opinion.

I'd hate to live in a world where all the opinion was tamped down and moderated.

But haven't you advocated moderating the dialog with Muslims in order not to alienate them?

NDC said...

"Why doesn't God cure the amputees?" seems to address only the aspect of faith that holds that God alone healed people in other medical cases.

But if you don't hold medical miracles as a central element of your faith, then what happens with amputees isn't particularly important.

One can believe in God and not hold that the Divine is some kind of medical wish-o-matic.

(I mean, does the fact that humans don't regenerate limbs in general disprove God? Why does the failure in the face of prayer change things?)

It seems to be to be a straw man argument constructed about flawed premises of some believers agruments, but not in itself particularly meaningful.

Daryl Herbert said...

People who deride Dawkins as militant and angry do so so they can dismiss his work without reading it.

He doesn't come across as militant or angry in his "Why Does God Hate Amputees?" web site.

No. Just straightforward and insistent. He takes Christians at their word and shows how sill it all is. Or, should I say, their Word.

People like ndc dismiss it as seeming like an oversimplified straw man argument . . . without ever having clicked over to the site and seeing that an entire book is constructed around it, analyzing the problem in great detail and with great nuance.

But, let's face it, it wasn't meant for them. No one who believes in Santa wants to hear how Rudolph can't really fly.

Daryl Herbert said...

What I want to know is, if prayer is so effective at curing disease, why don't Christians pay lower health insurance premiums?

Or, to put it another way, if you spent Sunday morning at the gym, your health-related prayers are more likely to be answered.

Kirk Parker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kirk Parker said...

Craig,

Forgive me for asking such a personal question, but exactly where in the universe are you loggin in from?

"27/7/52"

:-)

Seven Machos said...

Daryl -- If you don't think prayer is good at curing disease, you shouldn't pray to have diseases cured. Why does it bother you that other people pray to have diseases cured? Do your thing, Big Guy. Wail with it.

As for the praying people, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Praying is a way of setting forth goals. It's a calling out for good. That's all it really is. What these people really want is to be cured of a disease, or to have people with diseases cured. If they want to express it in a wish to a diety, what's your problem with that?

I am not a churchgoer myself. I note, though, that churches give to the poor. They help the needy, and the sick and the old. They run hospitals and clinics.

What have you done, Daryl, that can rival these good works?

corporate law drudge said...

Is Dawkins, then, an "Atheistist"?

Old Dad said...

Daryl Herbert said:

"No one who believes in Santa wants to hear how Rudolph can't really fly."

You make Kristoff's point. It's arrogant and condescending to reduce, let's say Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica to belief in Santa Claus. Aquinas believed in God. He's silent on Santa, so that makes him "one of those" dolts you apparently despise. But he was a pretty smart fella. Reasonable people can reach different conclusions, but it takes a mean spirit to reduce his argument to belief in a fairy tale.

Garage Mahal said...

"Why doesn't God cure the amputees"

More like, why doesn't God stop evil hurricanes, and tsunamis. Surely these were not necessary, and a creator had to know it would affect primarily poor people.

I think Mencken is probably right -- this universe looks like the makings of an inferior, or juvenile god, and has long since abanoned us, and has moved on to bigger things. Or the universe is run by a board of gods, like a board of a corporation that is losing money.

Anonymous said...

So, the point of the amputees thing is to refute all religions by demonstrating that one small subset of religions -- those which believe in faith-healing -- are wrong?

That's an interesting idea: Walk up to a Zoroastrian who doesn't believe in faith-healing, and demonstrate that a religion other than his is wrong. Congratulations! He thought that other religion was a steaming pile to begin with. What was your point again?


Dawkins has a few problems with reality on this stuff:

First, it's trivial to demonstrate that a few aggressively atheistic doctrines have done a lot more evil in the world than religion has. It's contrary to all known fact, to try to paint religion as Intellectual Public Enemy #1. It just ain't. Compared to people attempting to do politics on scientific principles, from eugenics right on down to Marxism, religion comes off reasonably well.

Second, there's this notion that religion isn't "rational", and that this makes it bad because of the unquestioned assumption that everything not "rational" (filial piety, for example?) is bad. If, as in point #1 above, you choose your facts very, very carefully, you can make that look sensible to somebody who's eager to believe what you're saying. But the truth is, a lot of good, productive behavior can't be shown to benefit the individual at all: Why vote? Why return a wallet you find on the sidewalk? Why die for your country? How about philoprogenitiveness? Philoprogenitiveness is not rational, but anybody who thinks it's bad needs his head examined. Ergo, an irrational idea can be a good one.

Religion tends to provide communal cohesion, and it generally also gives people reasons to do the right thing when nobody's watching. It addresses the tragedy of the commons. This stuff is important. It can be argued that this stuff is indispensable, and it can certainly be shown that cultures that abandon it tend to collapse or get flattened by the neighbors within a few generations. Has Dawkins any better ideas? Can Dawkins show us a post-religious culture that has more than 1.4 children per couple? Is Dawkins, who as I seem to recall might know something about evolution, now under the impression that failure to reproduce is a winning strategy?

On the whole, y'know, if I want to find out how useful (or harmful) religion is to real people in the real world, I'll talk to an anthropologist rather than to an evolutionary biologist (heck, why not an electrical engineer, or a forest ranger?) who's operating on anecdotal evidence and personal animosity alone. Dawkins is farther out of his own field on this religion stuff than Michael Behe is out of his field in attempting to address evolution. And Behe is making a very great fool of himself.

NDC said...

Actually, I did click over and read a chapter. I don't think I'm interested in reading the whole book.

It appears to assume that for God to exist, God has to behave the way a certain particular subset of people have decreed that God should work: God is in the medical wish granting business, and because God fails to grant medical wishes in certain cases, we need to be able to explain that or God does not exist.

Says who?

What if God doesn't ever grant medical wishes: the outcomes in some cases merely seem to match up with the wishes expressed in prayer?

What if the changes that God effects are simply spiritual, emotional and intellectual ones? Suppose God doesn't work in the physical empirical world at all these days, except as the spark of the Divine in each of us?

Why does God hate the amputees may refute the arguments make by a certain type of fundamentalist, but I'm not sure that God confines himself to the fundamentalist view.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I'm an atheist. An atheist is no more obligated to object to religion than a pilot is obligated not to drive.


garage mahal,

A) Fantastic name;

B) "Surely these were not necessary"? Sez who? What's the point about poor people? What makes you so certain that God, if He existed, would agree with your politics? You could say that, if goodness is an attribute of God (sez who?), then He would have to be good, but who put you in charge of defining "good"?


I'm baffled by people who claim that God can't exist, because God's supposed to be perfect, and it's obvious that a perfect being would necessarily be just like them.

I mean, I'm not callin' it hubris or anything, but... how can you be so absolutely sure that God wouldn't be just like me, instead? Or like Karl Malden, or Merrell Fankhauser?

Luke said...

Regarding the NYT's use of a link within the story: clearly, it's because it's a TimesSelect column. They already have your cash, your eyeballs are irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Kirk:

Heh... that should be 24/7, but since kidnapping and forced labour was outlawed, it's pretty hard to find good proof readers who will work for free. :) Still, I think my main point is an entirely valid one for debate despite the typo: Does Dawkins actually believe his more over the top rhetoric, or is it cynically playing up to a media culture where 'public intellectuals' are more likely to be noticed if they have a "provocative" soundbite for all occasions? And if so, does that really add anything substantive or useful to discussion of complex questions? I'd answer 'not entirely', 'yes' and 'no', but that's wide open to debate.

NDC said...

Something else I want to throw out there as a believer: many of can see how the world could be cruising along without God. We don't believe in God because we are somehow weaker and have some need that atheist don't have.

Many of us don't believe that God is somehow a combination of multivitamin and genie in a bottle.

Mack said...

If you don't like religion, ignore it.

The problem is that the world's religions don't let you ignore them.

I could just as well say, "If you don't like liberalism, ignore it." Or, "If you don't like Hillary Clinton, ignore her." Or "If you don't like islamofascism, ignore it."

Would you take that advice?

NDC said...

Well, in the US at least with the constitutional protections that people can expect, I think you ignore religion until it interfers with your life and they you fight the specific interference.

Using your example, I ignore Hillary Clinton until she takes an action that screws with my life, and then I do my best to reverse that action or to arrest that action before it occurs if possible.

I do not, however, go around trying to convince people that Hillary doesn't exists or try to eliminate her, etc.

The problem with Islamofascism is the fascism more than the Islam. Fight the fascism, ignore the Islam, as least in public life.

Mack said...

Seven Machos,

What I hate about atheists is that they set up this completely false strawman about what a religious believer is, and tar the strawman with all manner of charges.

I think you might be surprised how difficult it actually is to pose a critique of religious belief where the vast majority of people won't respond "Oh, well that's not at all what I believe, so whatever."

It's not a result of creating straw men. Religious beliefs are simply impossibly difficult to pin down, let alone the beliefs of a large group of people. Even where people know themselves what they believe, which they often don't, everybody believes something different.

The only way to appreciate this is to put yourself in the atheist's shoes, which few will do. Imagine, for instance, being thrown into a culture where everybody believes in some strange and ridiculous religion, but all for different and undefined reasons. Perhaps they have a religious text with all kinds of strange claims, which some believe literally, but most, if pinned down, will admit is mostly metaphorical. But they all agree that their religion requires them to sacrifice hundreds of young women into a volcano once a month. How do you show them reality?

Even with an analogy like that, I'm sure a 100 people will have a 100 different responses. Some will think it's offensive, some will see countless distinctions, some will say you should butt out either way, most will think things I couldn't predict. I think you miss the point, though, if you think they're simply straw men.

Gerry said...

"Which is a damned good question."

So God could only exist if pain and suffering did not exist?

There was a very dark television show that I loved, called "Millennium." In one episode near the end of its run, there was a character by the name of Alex Vonteaux. The episode featured the protagonist trying to find and save him, while periodically there was a voice-over from his diary. One entry said something along these lines:

"God moves us not with rewards, but with pains and contradictions. He has given us not answers, but questions; an invitation to marvel!"

I do not know why God allows there to be crippling illness or injuries. That said, I am guessing that if there were no cripples, or pain, or similar that you would probably still not believe that there is a God. If so, then that would mean that the skepticism does not come from those things, so I am not sure why you think that the presence of those things would be what causes anyone to not believe.

NDC said...

Mackan,

You don't say anything: you simply prevent the sacrifice. The women cannot be deprived of life in the name of their religion.

It gets more complicated if you assume that the hundreds of women are capable of legal consent and willingly want to be part of the sacrifice. If your culture allows people to commit suicide under other conditions, I don't know how you are going to make a case that it shouldn't be allowed here.

Seven Machos said...

Mackan -- When religious people try to interfere with my conception of public and private good, that is by definition a political issue, to be handled with political instruments (e.g., laws, votes, policies, wars, blockades, assassinations).

We are not talking about politics. We are talking about religion. We are talking about what people believe. What someone believes about God need not bother you. Millions of Christians believe that God works miracles, has a plan for then, yadda, yadda. So what? How is that hurting you?

The problem with atheists is the same problem with Jerry Falwell: both they and he are bothered simply by what you believe. Both they and he need to get over the need to feel right and the fascist desire to force others to change their beliefs.

NDC said...

I would love to be able to edit my post above to say
"The women cannot be deprived of life" instead of "cannot be deprived of life in the name of their religion"

It's not the religion that's the problem; it's the murder.

Seven Machos said...

Also, Mackan, your analogy is ridiculous. What if I show you atheists who have a belief system that requires them to requires them to seize all private property and arrest and/or kill everyone who disagrees with them? How do you deal with that?

You sound like an overexcited undergraduate. Just like Dawkins.

Joe R. said...

The problem with atheists is the same problem with Jerry Falwell: both they and he are bothered simply by what you believe. Both they and he need to get over the need to feel right and the fascist desire to force others to change their beliefs. Not all atheists are evangelical in their beliefs. But why even frame this as an argument between two equally obnoxious groups? While I don't agree with Dawkins (I am agnostic), I am bombarded by people who are attempting to either convert me to Christianity or convince me there is a God. I have never been woken up on a Saturday morning by an atheist (or agnostic or muslim for that matter). I have never been approached on the street by someone, who acts as if they know me, and then starts telling me about how atheism has opened their eyes. Why do so many christians think they everything figured out and that I have to believe them? Then those same people, who have no problem acting like Amway salesmen on crack for Jesus, get all pissy when someone starts pushing back. [And, yes, I know that not all Christians are evagelicals but, an annoyingly large amount are. ]

NDC said...

No, I don't think an annoyingly large number of Christians are evangelicals; it's just that the small group who are aggressively Evangelical make up for for their lack of numbers in pure annoyingness.

On the one hand, I think you should probably remember, that as far as they are concerned, they are trying to save you from eternal hell fire. They really do have the best of intentions, however misguided.

On the other hand, you ought to be able to sleep late on Saturdays and I wish you could figure out a way to pre-empt their efforts: sort of an Evangelical no call list.

But I think we all face solicitation from people selling up crap we don't want. Maybe we don't get atheism forces on us, but we get half baked political theories, conspiracy plots, Paris Hilton related "news."

We all have to figure out how to avoid or reject the stuff we don't want.

I'm not sure why religion would necessarily be different.

Jim Hu said...

How does it assert your superiority simply to say you think someone is wrong?
It doesn't. Neither does robust defense of separation of church and state.

But Dawkins and some other atheists go much further. The person isn't just wrong, they're deluded or evil. Or mentally defective.

Anonymous said...

Stevr wrote: "For an athiest [sic]to claim they know enough about the universe to know that there is no God, gee that sounds like God, they know everything."

I think this misconceives atheism, at least the intelligent atheism of Prof. Dawkins. It also gets exactly wrong where the burden of proof lies. Dawkins never says that he knows God doesn't exist. Instead, I believe this is his position: given the poor evidentiary showing that's been made for God so far, the hypothesis that he exists is of a very low order of probability. If you think he's wrong, you can set him straight by providing some evidence, any evidence, that God exists.

NDC said...

But based on the supernatural essense of God, any evidence is going to be hard to come by.

I think that it's natural for people to work to refute claims of "proof" of God's existance. If people were claiming that the girl who recovered from rabies proved that God answers prayers, then it's fair game to engage in a debate along those lines: if God alone cured her, why won't he cure amputees?

But I'd guess that the majority of believers don't think that you can ever expect any measure of proof; they recognize that belief is a not the product of reason, and they don't make arguments based on empirical examples.

Seven Machos said...

Aaron Baker: your punk-ass "[sic]" pretty much proves "Stevr's" exact point, doesn't it?

Atheists are nothing if not annoying know-it-alls. Honestly, people: if you had to choose between being locked in a closet for all eternity with this Dawkins guy and aaron baker or with a guy who hands out evangelical Christian leaflets on the street and the world's most enthusiastic Mormon, which would you choose?

tom faranda said...

Aaron

Dawkins atheism is not "intelligent atheism" it is irrational atheism.

The rational thesis is that there has to be a supreme being (not necessarily the God of the three montheisms) who created everything that is, or at least maintains everything that is.

This can be demonstrated in a number of ways (read Mortimer Adler's book "How to think about God", which he said he wrote for pagans - he was a pagan at the time.)

Here's just one silly argument of Dawkins: He has said that nature progresses from the simple to the complex.

This is nonsense - a complete contradiction to the 2nd law of thermodynamics which says the universe is going from a state of low entropy (randomness, disorder), to a state of higher entropy (higher disorder). But evolution moves in the opposite direction disorder -> order. How can this be so?

Who wound things up?

What precipitated the Big Bang (maybe the Big Banger himself/herself)?

Thre's plenty of other arguments Dawkins never takes on - he simply creates a straw man theism and then attacks it with silly questions like "who created God?"

kettle said...

Mackan-

"How much did you read?"

I read about 7-8 pages worth of text. It's not bad writing, and the points the writer makes are quite good.

However, I concluded (perhaps incorrectly) that the main thrust of the argument was to point out places in the Word that apparently contradict what we see and experience. As a rigorous basis for categorically dismissing the idea of God, this falls a good deal short of sufficient. That's all I really meant.

"You just can't help that there is such a huge gulf between the two groups."

I don't see this as being only a matter of perspective; the kernel of religion is faith, while with science it is empiricism, (perhaps we can exclude mathematics from this, being that it is more firmly rooted in logical inference). To me this implies that definitive statements by one, about the other, are outside the domain of either epistemology; and never the twain shall meet.

That's why I didn't feel it was a terribly clever site.

(I do not practice any religion, and that includes atheism)

kettle said...

"I think this misconceives atheism, at least the intelligent atheism of Prof. Dawkins. It also gets exactly wrong where the burden of proof lies. Dawkins never says that he knows God doesn't exist. Instead, I believe this is his position: given the poor evidentiary showing that's been made for God so far, the hypothesis that he exists is of a very low order of probability. If you think he's wrong, you can set him straight by providing some evidence, any evidence, that God exists."

This is a probabilistic fallacy. You are only taking into account what you have actually seen. It means you are looking and one, and only one history - that which actually ocurred, while ignoring the infinite multitude of alternatives that might have. It also fails to take into account the expected return on faith.

Blaise Pascal had an interesting take on this back in the 17th century. He started out as an empiricist and mathematical prodigy, as well as something of a debaucher, but eventually turned to the church. His reasoning was something like,

'If I wager on an unguided universe, and god turns out to exist, then I'm in for an unpleasant afterlife; on the other hand, though there is little observable evidence to support the claim, if I bet on god, I have nothing to lose.'

The argument was compelling enough to convince him to more or less renounce science, and devote himself to the church (he wasn't able to stay completely away from math though...)

Although modern America presents us with many more choices in terms of religion, (as well as other things), the fact remains that, when considering the rewards and penalties related to religious belief, a truly practical human being would do best to bet on divinity!

Mack said...

We are not talking about politics. We are talking about religion. We are talking about what people believe. What someone believes about God need not bother you. Millions of Christians believe that God works miracles, has a plan for then, yadda, yadda. So what? How is that hurting you?

Well, fundamentally, I think it's obvious: the societal impact of religion is huge. Just look at about 90% of policy differences between social conservatives and liberals. You said that's not necessarily the case, but of course, we know that it is the case.

Which raises the question, so, is it wrong for Dawkins to challenge those beliefs anyway? Should he play fair like the rest, and simply stick to challenging people's superficial policy positions? Never touching on the actual root of the disagreement? I just don't see it.

I have to say, though, I think people are much more resilient than they're given credit for. You know, you may think Dawkins is obnoxious, but how many lives has he really ruined by challenging people's deeply held beliefs? People talk like Dawkins writing a book about atheism causes all kinds of innocents' lives to crumble around them. I don't want to sound callous, but I don't think it's true. People may get annoyed, possibly uncomfortable, god forbid they may reexamine some things, but I think they'll make it through. And of course, some people actually enjoy these books a great deal. And unlike with the sea of religionists, if Dawkins and Harris weren't writing these books, nobody would be.

Of course, this assumes Dawkins is right. But then, if he's wrong, it's probably all the more important that he air his grievances...

Seven Machos said...

Mackan -- That's exactly my position. I don't like Dawkins. I wish to ignore him.

Why can't he and all the other atheists simply ignore religion? After all, people practicing their religions manifestly is not causing atheists' "lives to crumble around them." Why, then, does the nutty atheist father with no standing sue because his daughter's school says "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why does the ACLU pitch a fit when some little town in middle America wants to have manger scene in the public square? Why do atheists act as if their lives will, in fact, "crumble around them" unless there is no mention of God, ever, by anyone?

Let your ears hear what your fingers are typing, Mackan.

Joe R. said...

This is nonsense - a complete contradiction to the 2nd law of thermodynamics which says the universe is going from a state of low entropy (randomness, disorder), to a state of higher entropy (higher disorder). But evolution moves in the opposite direction disorder -> order. How can this be so?
Because the second law of thermodynamics only deals with closed systems. The universe may or may not be a closed system. Earth certainly is not a closed system.
Who wound things up? This is the reverse of what Dawkins does. Just because we haven't figured something out doesn't automatically induce supernatural explanations. It is at this point faith takes over. Dawkins's faith resides in their being scientifically based rational explanations for everything that can be perceived. Your faith leads you to God. Both positions are entirely reasonable and respectable. If, however, you come to my door before 9 am on a Sunday morning to proclaim either one, I will shout and curse at you.

when considering the rewards and penalties related to religious belief, a truly practical human being would do best to bet on divinity! Which God? If I accept Allah, but Jesus is savior, I'm damned. If I accept the God of the Torah, but Allah is true, still damned.

NDC said...

Actually, the God of the Torah is Allah, I think, so in terms of percentages. . . No I'm kidding.

Dawkins can question anything he wants; I don't think anyone wants to silence him.

But I think that many people who in general agree with him will think his argument is stronger and broader than it really is.

And I think for others with a "live and let live" attitude, they aren't looking for more intolerance or hostility from anywhere along the spectrum.

(and I think that the folks that seven nachos mentions, pledge dad, etc, seem every bit as wacky as the Falwells of the world)

bos0x said...

Seven Machos:

"The problem with atheists is the same problem with Jerry Falwell: both they and he are bothered simply by what you believe. Both they and he need to get over the need to feel right and the fascist desire to force others to change their beliefs."

Oh yes, the problem with Jerry Falwell is that he gets bothered by some things. He's not an attention-hungry, homophobic misogynist prick or anything.

I don't understand why, just because Christianity is something that someone believes in and might feel positive toward, any discussion about it is absolutely off-limits and offensive. Millions of Christians believe that God works miracles--but if there is some sort of strong evidence that he doesn't, why the hell would you want to believe it anyway? Because it gives you more appreciation for sunsets and wildflowers?

I once knew a person that was pregnant, a Christian, loved kids and wanted lots of them. After she had a miscarriage, her boss walked up to her and told her that if she prayed more, God would give her her dead baby back! He'd put it right back in its cozy little uterus, which by the way had been recently scraped of all the miscellaneous tissues that goes along with a pregnancy, and she could just pick up right where she left off before that unfortunate little setback. Her boss' idea of miracles was sincere and well-intentioned; it was also ignorant and--since it reopened all sorts of fresh grief for her--hurtful. But why should anyone point that out to him? If living in a world where a benevolent deity forces his follower to suffer a painful miscarriage, but will restore the pregnancy if she begs hard enough, makes him happy, who am I to stop such beautiful joy?

tom faranda: "Here's just one silly argument of Dawkins: He has said that nature progresses from the simple to the complex."

LOLOL that's so silly and the idea is completely Dawkins'!!!!!!!!!! I'm curious as to what exactly made you think it was ok or relevant to start whining about evolution like that (Does believing in evolution make Dawkins meaner?). Also, I apologize that atheists ask such stupid things like "Who created God?" while leaving all the hard questions unanswered--like "Who created the Big Bang?"

Atheists are so evil.

Seven Machos said...

Gosh, bosox. You don't sound contemptuous and fundamentalist at all.

I think we can all agree that Jerry Falwell is shrill. But who listens to him? What effect does he have on the world, except to make smug, condescending people such as yourself full of self-righteous indignation?

Who has said that discussion is absolutely off-limits and offensive? That's not the issue. The issue for Christians is: why can't a nativity be in the park at Christmas? Why can't say a pray at graduation or before the football game? Why can't I protest in front of an abortion clinic? Why is the government funding Piss Christ?

Also, I note that you repeatedly insult and mock Christians. Why not mock Muslims?

Anonymous said...

Mackan,

90% of policy differences between social conservatives and liberals.

That's spectacularly wrong. Where's the religion in the Second Amendment? Nowhere. The same goes for conservative preference for small(er) government, low(er) taxes, strong defense, lack of belief in the inherent goodwill of our enemies, a preference for private rather than state-mandated charity, and a tendency to judge the UN and the "international community" by what they do rather than by the marketing. Liberals tend to believe that the government is usually the best way to address problems, and that government is inherently more honest and efficient than private organizations, whether for profit or not; conservatives tend not to buy that jive. Liberals tend to favor other forms of intrusive government, like affirmative action; conservatives tend not to. It is characteristic of many liberals to see differences between the US and Europe as, by definition, proof of American inferiority; that view is not characteristic of conservatives, who if anything tend to be biased the other way. In general, conservatives believe that the way to influence people's behavior is through incentives and disincentives, while liberals are more likely to prefer other methods, like asking nicely or... I can't think of any others that aren't unproductively sarcastic.

That's about 90% of the differences right there, and none of it has the slightest connection to religion. Any rabidly atheist libertarian will broadly agree with the conservative viewpoints above -- and if they disagree, they'll be farther from the liberal position than the conservatives are, not closer.

And, no, you don't get to refute the above by claiming that conservatives only believe that stuff because they think God told them to, because "everybody knows" conservatives are just like that. You can't prove a contention by introducing it as an axiom, and you've got no business making fun of Jerry Falwell if you run around using that kind of "logic", so I trust you won't.

I'm not sure if greater conservative support for the "war on drugs" has a religious component or not; I don't relate to it all that well.


BoSox,

I don't understand why, just because Christianity is something that someone believes in and might feel positive toward, any discussion about it is absolutely off-limits and offensive.

Neither does anybody else. That's why nobody believes it. Lay off the strawmen, okay? They're getting pretty battered at this point in the discussion.

"Any discussion", FFS... People object to mindless belligerent hostility, that's all. And all they're doing is disagreeing with it. What, if anybody's permitted to disagree with you, you feel like you're being silenced? That's your problem, not theirs.

bos0x said...

If the discussion isn't off-limits and offensive, apparently, why did you become so angry at Mackan, who argued with in a very calm tone from the beginning? You called him an "undergraduate". Most people would find that condescending, so I have no idea why you disapprove of whatever I did that was allegedly condescending.

"The issue for Christians is: why can't a nativity be in the park at Christmas? Why can't say a pray at graduation or before the football game? Why can't I protest in front of an abortion clinic? Why is the government funding Piss Christ?"

I thought the topic was about mean atheists, not all the ways Christians delude themselves into thinking that they are persecuted.

As to why I'm not mocking Muslims at the moment: do you see any Muslims commenting on this blog?

bos0x said...

Super...: I meant that in regard to Seven Machos. kthxs for your kind instruction, though :) Patronize me a little more, please! Anything as long as it isnt belligerent hostility!!!

NDC said...

I don't think that US Christians face persecution, but I do think that sometimes a double standard is used in discussion of Christianity and other religions. Things that people would be hesitant to say in public about the illogic of any other religions for fear of seeming like intolerant jerks, they feel comfortable saying about Christianity.

Does Dawkins address other faiths?


I think that it's hard to make the case that Christianity is creating exceptional problems compared with other religions.

I'm not saying that he shouldn't address Christianity, but I wonder why refuting Christian belief takes priority.

tom faranda said...

Joe R

RE: thermodynamics - and the universe being a closed system. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, if we say the universe is all that is, then it certainly is closed system. As far as saying the earth isn't a closed system - certainly that's correct. So who wound up the universe, running counter to the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Has to be something outside the system - as in some supreme being.

Bosox

you seem to have anger management issues. I certainly didn't start "whining about evolution", since I have a couple of biology degrees and accept evolution as the best theory for explaining biological development. Nevertheless evolution simple -> complex runs counter to thermodynamics which says the universe is moving from order -> diorder. You have to come up with more than some "science is working on it" platitude to explain that. In fact it's really outside the realm of scientific study.

Mack said...

Seven Machos,

Except that ignoring religion is impossible. It's everywhere. It's a fundamental part of our society and culture. Does that mean people shouldn't show contempt for people who believe it? Sure, but it also means we all have a stake in it, not just those who go to church. As far as contempt goes, did you notice Kristoff's figure that less than 40 percent of people say they'd vote for an avowed atheist for any office? I'd also add that respect is a two-way street.

My point about lives crumbling was regarding Dawkin's books. Contrary to what many seem to think, I don't think Dawkins' books actually hurt anybody. I wouldn't say the same thing about fundamentalist religion. I think that hurts lots of people.

Still, though, if somebody wants to criticize Dawkins' book, be my guest! I wouldn't tell them "Don't criticize his views, that's not nice." Obviously, Dawkins' books affect all of us, and we're all entitled to respond.

Incidentally, the major difference between fundamentalist religion and non-fundamentalist religion? I'd say the recognition that it's a matter of faith, not knowledge, and that there are other legitimate persepctives as well. Many people, of course, read all the Dawkins books but still believe in god. I say good for them. Even if they're still religious, though, I think they benefit immensely from understanding Dawkins' perspective, which many share. I think they'd be much less likely to try to push their religious views on others, which a very large percentage of Americans remain willing to do, many without even realizing it.

Harry Eagar said...

seven asks: 'Why can't he and all the other atheists simply ignore religion?'

Uh, because 3 of the last 4 presidents of the United States are on record as saying atheists cannot be moral people?

Because religion is corrosive of social harmony?

Because religionists want to go through your library and pull out all the pagan books?

Because somewhere between 50 million and 100 million Americans say they believe disease is caused by demons?

Seven Machos said...

ignoring religion is impossible. It's everywhere

I have encountered religion today only on this blog. And it's Sunday in the middle of America.

It is absurd to say that ignoring religion is impossible. It is untrue to say that it's everywhere.

Harry: come on.

(1) Citations, please.

(2) A lot of atheists want to go through the library and pull out religious books. (

(3) What difference does it make if a bunch of uneducated people think demons cause disease? Vietnamese people leave food outside for their dead relatives. Is it hurting anybody?

(4) Atheism is not corrosive to social harmony? Yeah, when I think Stalin and Robespierre and Mao, I think social cohesion. When I think Catholics and the local Lutheran church (and, for that matter, prayers at the mosque), I think corrosive and anti-social. Get real, dude. Try to at least sound serious in your absurd charges.

Dirty Harry said...

I agree with Ann: The universe is proof enough.

It never ceases to amaze me that if a stone arrowhead was found buried on Mars everyone would consider that proof of intelligent life on Mars, but the very Earth itself (much more sophisticated than a stone arrowhead, no?) is not proof that it was created by an intelligent life form?

Existence itself, the universe, the fact that the universe goes on forever... It takes more faith NOT to believe than it does TO believe in God.

As far as the amputee question, God isn't big on *poof* miracles whereas something appears from nothing. Weather, fish, loaves, cells... These things are already there. There's something to start with.

But one has to admit it is a good question, but it's only one. The believer can ask the atheist hundreds of unanswerable questions.

Mack said...

Super-electro,

That's about 90% of the differences right there, and none of it has the slightest connection to religion.

Oh, I completely disagree. I'm not saying a direct result of religious edict here, but religion clearly has a distinct and powerful impact on very many of those issues. This isn't a radical idea; ask Bill O'Reilly. I'd say America's conservatism on nearly all of those issues, compared to, for instance, Sweden, is very much a result of our religiosity vs. their secularism.

Generally speaking here, I'm talking about the southern Christian perspective, the George Bush perspective. I have to condescend here. This is about the good guys vs. the evil doers. It's about being Christian soldiers, in a constant state of battle. It's about righteousness, and yes, moral superiority. It's about the very idea that America is a Christian nation, and doesn't need to listen or pay attention to the secularists and worse in other nations. It's about skepticism toward man-created institutions. It's about wanting to maintain the Christian character in the face of immigration.

Of course, these are all characatures, and it's not that simple, and this doesn't apply to everybody; the libertarians and the neocons are the exception. But the effect is very real.

And that doesn't speak of the social issues, where it's much more pronounced, talking abortion and gay marriage. But these aren't just single issues, either; these bring large segments into the Republican party, for no other reason. Then this gets people like George Bush nominated by that party and elected president, also very largely because he has a rapport and relates with such southern evangelical voters. You tell me: would this guy have been elected in a secular country?

You certainly don't have to be Christian to be a conservative, but I think you'd have to be crazy to think it doesn't help, in more ways than abortion and gay marriage. Even so, those issues alone are huge.

Seven Machos said...

Mackan --

1. I am conservative. I don't go to any church of any kind. If you think the Republican party is made up of anywhere near a majority of evangelical Christians, you are sadly, hideously mistaken.

2. How do you account for the millions and millions of Christians who are Democrats? If you think the Democratic party is made up of anywhere near a majority of secular atheists, you are even moresadly, hideously mistaken.

3. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton basically will be remembered as the same mediocre centrist president. Just like you can't tell much difference now between Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore.

4. Financial Times: Sweden’s new government plans to reduce the state’s role in the economy substantially, and will sell off government stakes in some of the country’s best-known companies, including SAS, the airline, and Nordea, the Nordic region’s largest bank. CIA World Factbook: Sweden. 87 percent Lutheran. Please get with the program.

5. American does not need to listen to other nations, nor should it. And they don't need to listen to us.

Seven Machos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Revenant said...

"Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars"

The Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars?

Yeah, that's got to be one of the more outrageously false statements I've heard someone make about the state of religion in America. Largely *losing* the culture wars, maybe. But there is, alas, no sign of a "retreat".

Mortimer Brezny said...

"[T]hose who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
-- C.S. Lewis

Anonymous said...

From the reviews of the "God Delusion" I was apparently going straight too hell for just looking at it. Now after reading it I was quite impressed, but I think I was also Dawkins ideal target. I saw church as a total waste of time from well about 6 years old, it was just so boring, I mean Sundays could be spent doing better fun stuff. I have not been in church volunterily for my whole adult life. Do I have the anti-religious gene? Also I can't imagine totally closing my mind and going "neeh-neeh I am not listening to anything". Interesting Dawkins also say that the Bible is one of the more notable works of fiction in history, also he doesn't want too replace supernaturalism with some new-agey mysticism he rejects all pseudo science, for example he said there is no thing as "Alternative Medicine" only medicine that works or not, which is 100% true.

Anonymous said...

"Aaron Baker: your punk-ass "[sic]" pretty much proves "Stevr's" exact point, doesn't it?"

Mr. Machos, you can toss all the moronic insults my way you like; what I'm waiting for is evidence.

So far, all I'm seeing are hoary old chestnuts (i.e. the progression from less complex to more complex forms violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics; give me a break). I fully understand the anger of a Dawkins or a Harris after years of reading and hearing this sort of sorry stuff.

tom faranda said...

Aaron

"So far, all I'm seeing are hoary old chestnuts (i.e. the progression from less complex to more complex forms violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics; give me a break)."

yup. that's what it does. Simple -> complex violates the 2nd law. you need a better explanation than "give me a break"

Ghlade said...

At least as pertains to evolution, a "better explanation" has already been given and accepted. The 2nd Law applies exclusively to closed systems. Earth is not a closed system. The theory of evolution attempts to explain the diversity of life on Earth. Therefore, the theory of evolution cannot violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. That seems like a pretty airtight argument to me.

Evolution does not attempt to explain "who wound up the universe." Evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life, much less the origin of -- well, everything. The theory of evolution merely attempts to explain the diversity of life on Earth. Unfortunately, people often conflate evolution with separate and distinct theories in order to attribute the alleged problems with those theories to evolution. Sorry, but no.

Smilin' Jack said...

Why Won't God Heal the Amputees?

Because He's too busy designing new birth defects, or maybe coming up with a new AIDS virus. Anyway, if He wanted amputees to have limbs, He wouldn't have taken them in the first place.

And re the Second Law, think of it this way: you are now a complex system. One hundred years from now, you will be a lot simpler.

Nataraj said...

This point:
"ignoring religion is impossible. It's everywhere"

...was addressed by Steven Machos:
"I have encountered religion today only on this blog. And it's Sunday in the middle of America. It is absurd to say that ignoring religion is impossible. It is untrue to say that it's everywhere."

To which I ask simply:
- can you buy beer on Sunday where you live, or a car? In MN they can't, and we can't buy a car in WI on Sun. Why?

Religion *is* omnipresent in many ways. Pretending otherwise is silly. Christianity is the target because it's the dominant religion. No one (except aggressive Christians) picks on Wiccans because there are only about a million of them in the US and they don't stop you on the street to stuff a pamphlet in your hand. Christians feeling "picked on" in America is analagous to white males in the work force feeling picked on. They already have every advantage, so losing any status feels like an attack.

Mack said...

Seven Machos,

Of course neither party is entirely anything. There's no question which party is more influenced by fundamentalist religion, though, is there? Which kind of proves, I think, that religion has influence.

Sweden isn't 87% Lutheran, though, by any standard definition. That's simply the historic state religion. I saw a recent poll saying that in Norway (very much like Sweden) less than 3 in 10 people believe in god. Scandinavia is generally recognized as about the most secular and liberal place in the West (I used to live there). But I could have said Europe generally.

I'm aware, of course, that most Americans don't like people who criticize religion. Even when attacking Muslims, most won't talk about the actual theology, except sometimes to argue whether it's a religion of peace or not. Personally, my view is that the world has only benefitted, and immensely, from people who have broken that rule, and criticized the religious beliefs themselves, on theological grounds. Of course, I'm not talking about suppressing religion, but challenging it, straight-forwardly, on its merits. I wish a lot more people throughout history had been willing to do that. Not that I blame them for keeping quiet...

Aren't we glad that certain people have done this, though? It certainly has always made people uncomfortable. It seems clear to me, though, that the West's assertion of secularism, perhaps in addition to its religious roots, has been a huge contributor to our success, compared to the various theocracies that are still out there.

Harry Eagar said...

seven, you need to get out more. Allow me to introduce you to Rev. Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association.

Belief in demon-caused disease may not affect you, unless you and your children get caught in an epidemic created by refusal to accept modern medical practice.

I grew up a Catholic surrounded by Southern Baptists. I promise you, they did not hesitate to tell me how to act. And if I resisted, they were pleased to use state power to enforce their backward superstitions.

As for social cohesion, my grandfather, who was a high muckety-muck Episcopalian layman, married (as his second wife) an Italian girl. He was able to use his considerable social prestige to get the local Grand Dragon of the KKK to meet the local Catholic bishop, defusing the war of the holy rollers against the Catholics, in that area, for that period of time.

cb said...

Mackan - "world has only benefitted, and immensely, from people who have broken that rule, and criticized the religious beliefs themselves, on theological grounds. Of course, I'm not talking about suppressing religion, but challenging it"


I'm glad you finally came out and admitted what is obvious in your tone for the entire thread.



Danp said - "also he doesn't want too replace supernaturalism with some new-agey mysticism, he rejects all pseudo science"


So, he does want to replace religion? With some sort of scientificism? Did it ever occur to any of you that that battle has been fought before?


Reading this thread has brought a wry smile to my face. Communism vs. Capitalism. Christianity vs. Islam. Secularism vs. Religion. Scientificism vs. Religion. Blah, blah, blah. Different battles, different means, same goal - power.

cb said...

Nice post Harry. You were asked for evidence of your fantastic statistical claims, and your response? One piece of anecdotal evidence. Thank you for so quickly and succintly evincing your lack of intelligence.

cb said...

Oh, I'm sorry, Harry. I should have said "lack of intelligent contribution to the discussion." Sorry.

The Jerk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Jerk said...

Simple -> complex violates the 2nd law. you need a better explanation than "give me a break"



Atheists don't believe in n supernatural beings. Believers don't believe in n-1 supernatural beings. Seems to me that believers bear the burden of explaining why the 1 differs from the n.

The Jerk said...

Whoever came up with HTML will spend eternity in hell. Anyway, if you click on the link in my comment above you'll find a refutation tom faranda's of the claim that evolution is counter to the second law of thermodynamics.

Seven Machos said...

Man, The Jerk, that's not a gppd explanation if n > 1. Suppose n = 8. Then atheists believe in seven dieties. Also, what is n is a fraction? (Or zero or negative.) That's going to cause real problems.

Back to the drawing board.

Revenant said...

yup. that's what it does. Simple -> complex violates the 2nd law. you need a better explanation than "give me a break"

We see simple things becoming complex things all the time in the world around us (e.g. an acorn becoming an oak tree), so obviously if that violates the second law of thermodynamics then the second law of thermodynamics is wrong.

Fortunately (for the physics textbooks of the world) the law isn't wrong, because it describes the behavior of a closed system. The earth is not a closed system; it receives 1.740×10^17 watts of power from the Sun. Simply put, Earth is able to become "more ordered" because the Sun is footing the bill.

The Jerk said...

Suppose n = 8. Then atheists believe in seven dieties.

I think you need to read it again, and you'll see that you are incorrect.

Also, what is n is a fraction? (Or zero or negative.)

"n" generally denotes a natural number.

Revenant said...

not a gppd explanation if n > 1. Suppose n = 8. Then atheists believe in seven dieties.

You misread what he wrote. If n=8 then atheists *disbelieve* in 8 deities and Christians disbelieve in 7.

Also, what is n is a fraction? (Or zero or negative.)

As "n" is the number of postulated deities it cannot possibly be zero, negative, or fractional -- thousands of deities have already been postulated. In reality, of course, the value of N is infinity, as there is literally no limit on the number of gods that *could* exist.

As N-1 = N where N - infinity, both Christians and atheists believe the same number of gods don't exist. They differ only in how many gods they believe DO exist -- zero vs. one.

The Exalted said...

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton basically will be remembered as the same mediocre centrist president.

you think w. is a centrist heh.

good one.

Mack said...

Christians feeling "picked on" in America is analagous to white males in the work force feeling picked on. They already have every advantage, so losing any status feels like an attack.

Every advantage? I'm with you on this, but I find it annoying when people say things like that. Unless you're rich and beautiful, I don't think any group has every advantage...

Mack said...

CB,

Did I hide my position? I wasn't trying to. Yes, I think the world benefits from people like Dawkins, who don't just throw aspersions at other religions, but explains exactly why he think it's wrong. I think heretics do the world a lot of good.

So are you saying you stand against the liberalization of Christianity in the last few hundred years? Or you think the Church/hierarchies made those changes voluntarily?

Harry Eagar said...

cb, are you saying that the number of evangelicals in the US is under 50 million?

Not according to any survey I know of.

There is some question about how fervently any particular evangelical believes in X doctrine (like, say, divorce is sin), but everything I have said comes right out of Calvary Chapel, which claims to be the fastest growing sect in the country.

Seven Machos said...

Evangelical. Belonging to or designating the Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures, esp. of the New Testament, in opposition to the institutional authority of the church itself, and that stress as paramount the tenet that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ. Dictionary.com

So, basically, "evangelical" = "Protestant." Yes, there are probably 50 million Protestants in the United States.

You are using a loaded term, Harry. It's unbecoming. Also, still waiting on the citation that "3 of the last 4 presidents of the United States are on record as saying atheists cannot be moral people."

Revenant said...

So, basically, "evangelical" = "Protestant."

It covers many Protestant churches, but by no means all of them.

Abraham said...

Simply put, Earth is able to become "more ordered" because the Sun is footing the bill.

I understood the point to be that the universe itself appears to be a closed system, and yet somehow it sprang from either nothingness or from a lower-ordered system. What "footed the energy bill" for the universe's, the sun's progenitors, the sun's, and ultimately our own energy?

Alpha Liberal said...

I agree with Ann (!). The religious right have not withdrawn from their one-sided "Culture Wars." They will continue to exhibit paranoia ("War on Christmas") and hostility toward people not fitting their definition of normal.

But the atheism-religious fundamantalism debate is not left-right. It is religious-areligious.

kettle said...

Revenant:
"We see simple things becoming complex things all the time in the world around us (e.g. an acorn becoming an oak tree), so obviously if that violates the second law of thermodynamics then the second law of thermodynamics is wrong."

While your point is spot on, I think that the acorn->tree analogy is not so good. I suspect that the difference you see here is the result only of the simple appearance of the acorn. But really, the acorn and tree are isomorphic representations of the same information, albeit the latter transformed somewhat by the slings and arrows of weather and star crossed lovers and circumstance.

Maybe human creations, beehives make better examples.

SteveS said...

Seven Machos: Why can't he and all the other atheists simply ignore religion? After all, people practicing their religions manifestly is not causing atheists' "lives to crumble around them." Why, then, does the nutty atheist father with no standing sue because his daughter's school says "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why does the ACLU pitch a fit when some little town in middle America wants to have manger scene in the public square? Why do atheists act as if their lives will, in fact, "crumble around them" unless there is no mention of God, ever, by anyone?

First, I don't why on earth you think all atheists act the same. That is obviously not true. And it is kind of like thinking that all religious people believe God intervenes in specific ways to cure individual illnesses, and then using that specific belief to deride all religious people.

Second, if you have no objection when a town in middle America wants to have a manger scene in the public square, can I also assume you have no objection if a town wants to post a banner in the public square saying "God is a fiction"? And if a town did that, do you think that Liberty Counsel or some other religious conservative organization would sue to prevent the state from taking a position on their religious beliefs? Would you consider that pitching a fit and tell them to stop acting like their lives will "crumble around them"?

(Note that I'm not in favor of a town doing that, as I believe the government should be neutral towards religion, just pointing out that the manger violates the neutrality goal just as surely as the statement of religion as folly.)

Seven Machos said...

1. the atheism-religious fundamentalism debate...is religious-areligious That's some deep, substantive analysis, there, Alpha Liberal. What other profound insights do you have?

2. SteveS: What town has there ever been an issue about a banner saying "God is a fiction"? It must be fun to just make shit up and say: "see, the other side does it, too." Also, prohibiting something is not neutrality. Would you say that the government is neutral toward crack cocaine? What about murder? These are some of the silliest arguments I have ever heard.

Revenant said...

understood the point to be that the universe itself appears to be a closed system, and yet somehow it sprang from either nothingness or from a lower-ordered system.

The universe itself, so far as we can tell, is getting less, not more, ordered and complex. The question "where did the universe come from" is a separate one, unrelated to either evolution or to the second law of thermodynamics.

What "footed the energy bill" for the universe's, the sun's progenitors, the sun's, and ultimately our own energy?

I'm pretty sure that it is understood that all of the energy in the universe was present in the point-mass that expanded in the "big bang", so that would be the source of energy for all of those things. I may be wrong, since I really don't understand where vaccuum energy comes from or if it constitutes energy being created. I'm pretty sure it does not.

Anyway, all causal theories about the ultimate origins of the universe boil down to either "it's always been here" (which is pretty seriously discreditted at this point) or a "causeless cause" (whether that's God or the big bang point-mass or whatever). Those are pretty much the only two options you can get without discarding causality (which, given that time didn't even exist "before" the big bang, may be the way to go).

SteveS said...

Seven Machos: Obviously no town has posted such a banner, and perhaps if you had better reading comprehension skills you wouldn't have mistakenly characterized me as saying some town did and "the other side does it too," which is obviously not the point of my post.

"Prohibiting something is not neutrality." Yes, this is correct. Now find the place where I said anything at all about the government prohibiting religion, and maybe you won't look like someone who is attempting to use diversion to mask the fact that you have been definitively out-argued. Alas, I fear this is not possible.

Talk about silly responses.

Seven Machos said...

Yes, Steve, obviously no town has such a banner or has tried to put one up. That's why I said you are making stuff up. The part where I said "make shit up" could have been your clue that I am aware that there never has been such a case.

If the Supreme Court is prohibiting a town putting up a manger scene, then the government is, in fact, prohibiting an instance of religion. You can rationalize it away all you want and you can call me stupid, but a prohibition is a prohibition.

SteveS said...

Seven Machos, do you really think the government not doing something itself is the same as prohibiting it? To my mind, if someone talks about the government prohibiting something, that means that the government is stopping people from engaging in it. I would say it's a careless use of language to refer to the government's unwillingness to engage in something as prohibiting it.

As for the banner example, I am not making shit up. I am posing a hypothetical as a method of illustration of why the government's funding a manger installation is problematic. That's the point, not to claim "the other side does it too." And you haven't answered my question: would it be okay with you IF a government posted such a banner. And if is not, why is it okay if the government funds the manger?

Revenant said...

Yes, Steve, obviously no town has such a banner or has tried to put one up. That's why I said you are making stuff up.

He was asking a hypothetical question. Thus the phrase "if a town wants to post a banner". It isn't "making stuff up" to ask how you'd react to a hypothetical situation, so you're either not bothering to pay attention to what Steve's writing or deliberately being an jerk by misreading it.

In any case, the answer to the question "why do some atheists want to make the government take 'under God' out of the pledge" is that it was put in there for the specific purpose of making it clear that the United States of America endorsed belief in God and considered it vital to what America is all about. It was placed in there to officially state that the USA is anti-atheism. Atheists would like that passage removed so that the federal government can revert to its previous long-standing status of having no official position on the existance of gods.

Even if you don't see the fairly obvious first amendment issues involved the federal government endorsing a god, it is easy to see why an atheist might be offended by the implication that he's a suboptimal American.

Anonymous said...

This quote says it all:
The poet, Czeslaw Milosz, wrote the following:

IF THERE IS NO GOD

If there is no God,
Not everything is permitted to man.
He is still his brother’s keeper
And he is not permitted to sadden his brother,
By saying that there is no God.

Harry Eagar said...

Well, let's see: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush.

Yeah, that's 4. Reagan was the most vocal about excluding atheists from the body politic. Two of the other three tag along.

I'll let you guess which ones. (Hint: He didn't suck up to Rev. Bob Jones.)

Seven Machos said...

I have no problem if Nevada, Missouri wants a manger scene; Atheistville wants a "God does not exist" banner; and Dearborn, Michigan wants a "Praise Allah for the holidays" parade. If town councils pass laws funding those things and a federal court's restraining order prohibits them, is there a prohibiton? Yes. Without question. Anyone who says there is not grossly misunderstands federalism.

In my view, the Establishment Clause prohibits the federal government from establishing a single religion as the U.S. religion. Nothing else.

Rev: Atheists would like that passage removed so that the federal government can revert to its previous long-standing status of having no official position on the existence of gods. You have pulled this one before. You seem to be under the mistaken belief that there was a "long-standing" time in American history when the United States government was more "neutral" toward religion than it is now. Please, tell us when that time was. Was it in the 1940s, when Betrand Russell was denied a teaching position at the CITY University of New York because of his atheism? Was it in 1900? 1776? Please tell us when the government was so much less tolerant of religious displays, so that we may be edified by your unique understanding of political history.

Seven Machos said...

Harry: Those are not citations. I thought you are a journalist.

Revenant said...

In my view, the Establishment Clause prohibits the federal government from establishing a single religion as the U.S. religion. Nothing else.

The "single" must be hiding in that same invisible part of the constitution where rights to abortions and gay sex are hiding, because it sure isn't part of the first amendment.

I will assume that your citation of New York *city* policy in response to my comments about *federal* policy was due to simple stupidity rather than dishonesty.

The United States government did not endorse belief in the Abrahamic god as official US policy until the 1950s. There were, of course, regular religious statements by American politicians and regular persecutions of non-Christians (and of the "wrong kind" of Christians, such as Catholics and Muslims) throughout American history, but they were not part of any consistent, official federal policy. This is because for most of our history the government still practiced federalism, which people like you occasionally pretend to care about when faced with a law you wish the federal government wasn't forcing on the states. The presumption that the federal government must meddle in every aspect of American life, combined with the early cold-war fear of "atheistic" communism, led the federal government to embarassingly write into law something which most Americans believed in their hearts, but which had no place in a nation in which belief in God has nothing to do with either citizenship or with the functioning of our system of government.

Seven Machos said...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

Do you really believe that there are more public displays of religion now than there were before WOrld War II? That's simply insane.

The Supreme Court first considered the question of financial assistance to religious organizations in Bradfield v. Roberts (1899). The federal government had funded a hospital operated by a Roman Catholic institution. In that case, the Court ruled that the funding was...permissible. In the twentieth century, however, the Supreme Court has more closely scrutinized government activity involving religious institutions...

Wikipedia is your friend, Rev. And the Google. It's free today.

And then there's this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

You are grotesquely, stupendously wrong to say that this country somehow has become MORE religious since World War II. It is an absurd contention on its face.

Theo Boehm said...

Hmmm...It's pushing Tuesday, and this went up Sunday. Still getting comments. Long in the tooth for an Althouse post, no?

Will the...uh..."discussion" end soon? My eyes have glazed over. I'd rather watch figure skating.

Who's winning, God or the atheists?

I'd bet the atheists did well in the technical program, but God beat them on style. It's just like God to pull off a stunt like that. I remember when the European judges only gave him a 6.8, while the Muslems gave him a straight 10.0, and the Americans a 9.2. I think that was God doing a solo program against the Marx/Lenin duo.

Now it's God vs. Dawkins. Dawkins has the loudest fans, but it's just too painful to watch. Let's change the channel.

Hey, isn't "Survivor" on?

Mack said...

Theo Boehm,

Dawkins has the loudest fans, but it's just too painful to watch.

As long as just about every American household has access to 24-hour-a-day religious programming, without a scant mention of atheists or atheism even in the vast majority of pop culture, let alone TV or the media, I'm going to have to disagree.

The reason many discuss it on the internet, of course, is that so many people have such a strong aversion toward anyone who discusses it anywhere else. (Well, you see the same aversion here, but here it's easier to deal with.)

Michael Oliver,

And he is not permitted to sadden his brother,
By saying that there is no God.


Really? If I believe my brother is drastically wrong about something very important to his life, you don't think I should tell him?

Should I just smile awkwardly whenever he brings it up?

As far as I'm concerned, if there's somebody who truly needs religion, I have little doubt they'll be able to recover it after a little theological discussion with an atheist. People who want to be religious, I find, are amazingly capable of returning to the fold. What many don't like to acknowledge, though: the extent to which many people are actually extremely grateful for having broken free of religion.

Of course, this all assumes that you should only tell people what they want to hear, which I think is kind of a terrible notion in the first place, but even so...

Theo Boehm said...

Hey, Mackan, looks like God has just won the technical program as well. Really time to change the channel. Maybe we could watch Wierd Al on YouTube or something.

Revenant said...

Hey, Mackan, looks like God has just won the technical program as well.

Oh, I dunno. Usually you can't win a contest unless you actually show up for it. :)

Theo Boehm said...

Hey, Revenant, how would you know? You don't seem to have a TV set.

cb said...

Screw you, Mackan, you arrogant ass. Nobody gives a crap if you think God is non-existent, so quite shoving it down everybody's face. You're worse than a freakin' JW.

BTW, you're last post used the word heretic, which is inconsistent with your previous posts. I was going to respond intelligently to you, but FU, you're too much of an ass. Oh, and I'm an atheist.

A Menken Moment said...

An earlier commenter doubted there were dogmas in atheism. This is not true. The non dogmatic approach to religious doubt would be agnosticism, the frank admission that one just does not know and that the canons of "evidence" prized by the scientific method yield no conclusive answer to the question. Atheism, however, is a positive assertion that god does not exist.

There is another tendency in the modern scientific approach, and that is to deny the existence of a nonmaterial soul or psyche. Following this materialistic premise, acolytes of the disciplines that call themselves scientific always study the mind as though it were merely an object, a thing with no inherent interiority, just a aggregation of atoms and sparks, albeit complexly "evolved."

The viewpoint of all religions, on the other hand, is to assert that the psyche exists also as a subject, independently of matter, in the sense that it is something other than just an aggregation of external interactions. This is why a scientist, when he is speaking as a scientist, can never convincingly say anything about love or loyalty, or sin and redemption, the way a poet or prophet can.

The two, theist and secularist, are always talking past each other; and just as it is maladroit for the believer to employ his stories in trying to describe genetics or cosmology, its is horribly, even dangerously superficial, when a scientist tries to speak of man's moral dilemmas as though they arise from merely external and material circumstances.

Theo Boehm said...

This program is really starting to suck. Time to change the channel.

Oooh! "The Medium" is on.

Now that Allison, she really gets some cool channels on her cable. She's got premium service.

You know, you can start getting reception if you pay your cable bill.

Revenant said...

Hey, Revenant, how would you know? You don't seem to have a TV set.

Its not that I don't have a TV set, its that there's nothing worth watching. :)

Mack said...

cb,

This isn’t about arrogance. It’s a discussion about whether atheists are mean and contemptuous, or whether they’re entitled to promote their viewpoint. Clearly, I think they’re entitled to promote their viewpoint. Not only do I think it’s their right, but I think the world would be much better if they did so more often. Incidentally, I also think knocking on doors is the least worrisome trait of religious fundamentalists.

One interesting thing here: we haven’t even talked about why someone might be an atheist. We’re solely talking about whether atheists are entitled to express their viewpoint, or if they should simply remain silent, and allow most people to intensely dislike them. Amazingly, though, this discussion itself apparently annoys people a lot more than one, for instance, about whether the Bible is actually inerrant. Am I wrong?

It seems that possibly the one thing worse than even attacking people’s religious beliefs – which I don’t think I’ve even done here – is to stand up for those obnoxious atheists.

Seven Machos said...

Religious person: "There is a God."

Atheist: "Atheists are entitled to express their viewpoint. Don't try to censor me. I have First Amendment rights!"

---------------

Religious person: "I don't think you should insult religious people and their beliefs."

Atheist: "Are you saying I am not entitled to express my viewpoint? I have First Amendment rights!!"

Mack said...

Onegoodmove has Richard Dawkins' and Sam Harris' response.

Robert said...

I'm not sure which bewilders me more - the tendency of _some_ Christians to interpret any diminishment of their religion's privileged place in American society as religious intolerance and persecution, or the assumption (typically on the part of the same people) that atheists are aggressively and obnoxiously forcing their views on all those about them.

Also, for what it's worth, most (if not all) atheists I've met subscribe to the view of 'there's no proof of a deity, so I'll live my life as if there WAS no deity,'
rather than 'Isn't it obvious to any thinking person that no God exists?!'

Anonymous said...

Science is not a zealotry it is proven(based on the accuracy of the times) laws of nature using a logical method- The Scientific Method. The reason athiests(Dawkins) seem pissy is because they have to argue with grown adults that act like childeren- saying that they believe something which has not been proven: like monsters, fairies and the afterlife.

Theo Boehm said...

Revenant, that's what they all say when they can't pay the cable bill.

Johnson has somewhere, perhaps in London or The Vanity of Human Wishes, a line about a "female atheist who talks you dead." Nice to know things haven't changed in 260 years.

Well, back to "The Medium." Allison's doing a bit of time travel tonight. Wished I could go back and ask Dr. Johnson just who he had in mind with that piece of Baroque snark.

Oops. Commercial's over. Gotta go.

(reaching for remote)

*Click*

Seven Machos said...

Play Drums: Alright. Prove atheism. And while you are at, show us with scientific certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow.

This should be fun.

Anonymous said...

and drum roll ... Seven Machos pulls out all the stops in his 7th grade locker room debate skills:

"Alright. Prove atheism. And while you are at, show us with scientific certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow."

Science does not "prove" things. It is an iterative process of developing and testing postulates so that those that are retained are most consistent with the broadest range of phenomena. Oops, I went all polysyllabic on you there. So current models and data - the position of the sun in the HR diagram, the fusion cross-section for protons from quantum chromodynamics, the general theory of relativity, the Fermi-Dirac and Boltzmann distributions, the apparent approximate rotational symmetry of the universe - all are consistent with an expectation that the sun will rise tomorrow.

But HERE's the news flash: if it DOESN'T there are going to be thousands upon thousands of scientists crawling all over each other, proposing which parts of these models are wrong so that they can be corrected. Because science is not blindly committed to dogma, but to finding those principles that describe the way the universe actually behaves - even at the expense of throwing out hard -hard- won gains.

That's the false dichotomy - the straw man, if you will - of "believe in god or believe in science". Science is a means of iteratively developing understanding of natural phenomena -a means that has proven so wildly successful that desperate myth-mongers who forsee their power and influence withering in its onslaught, gird themselves for battle with it - and emphatically not a disembodied set of dogmas -"the sun will rise tomorrow" - to be taken on faith. Seven Machos – and his/her ilk – are so embedded in their faith-based, dogmatic world view that they can scarcely imagine a different way of thinking about and understanding the world, and it always shows through in their petulant demands to “prove it.”

cb said...

Mackan,

You have been talking about promoting your viewpoint, which I agree you should be able to do, and in fact happen to be in the same idealogical boat. However, you have also been talking about attacking religion and 'converting' believers into non-believers, which you have stated is a good thing. I disagree that it is productive to engage is such activity, and as I stated, consider you an arrogant ass for doing so. That is no different than any other contemptuous person shoving their religion on anybody. Live and let live.

The only bad thing religion does is the minority of believers (who get all the attention, unfortunately) who shove it on other people. Converting regular people is not productive, as any unbiased view of the world would lead anybody to conclude that regular people need religion, and behave better with it. The nutcases would be nutcases with or without religion, they just use religion as an excuse to engage in their type of behavior.

Mack said...

cb,

I think my statement was more that non-believers do good by expressing their views to believers, whether anyone is converted or not.

I disagree with you, though, about the extent to which people need religion. My case in point is Scandinavia. There, we have several remarkably secular societies, that seem to work absolutely fine. Denmark recently polled as the happiest country in the world, with all the other Scandinavian countries up there as well, despite the fact that as I said earlier, apparently less than 3 in 10 Norwegians will say they believe in god.

Maybe that's a uniquely Scandinavian thing; I don't know. I'm won't say the world is capable of or should get rid of religion entirely. What I see pretty clearly, though, is that any extent to which religion is liberalized is a good thing. Even if people are happier being religious, I don't think that needs to be the fundamentalist "I know God, and everybody else is just not trying or evil" outlook. I think that outlook is purely harmful and unnecessary (not to mention wrong!).

And how do you get past that outlook? I see only one way: by people who disagree explaining exactly why they disagree. It doesn't mean they'll convert everybody, but it does mean everybody will have a better idea of what's actually going on. And again, I think people can handle the annoyance.

cb said...

It's clear to me that you have an overly excited negative view of religious fundamentalists, which isn't necessariy a bad thing, but in effect, it's no different than an overly excited believer. Either way, I don't want to talk to either of you. Later, good luck with your conversion efforts.

Robert said...

Cf Evelyn Crunk's example - one of the things that _some_ religious believers frequently pillory science (or scientism) with is 'they're always changing their minds! Only God's truth is never-changing!'

Translated, that means 'when new facts become known that contradict our previous ideas, we ignore the new facts and stick with our previous ideas.'

Also, 'proving' atheism would be pointless - most philosophical atheists I've known take a materialist approach to life, the universe and everything. If there's evidence for something (gravity, human kindness/human cruelty, Zanzibar) the evidence is considered and the conclusions are drawn. There is no objective evidence that _I_ know of for the existence of God; people who choose to believe in God do so despite the absence of such evidence, those who do not believe do so because of the absence of evidence.

Anonymous said...

How is "God" different from Santa Claus to the child that believes in both?

How is the assertion that Allah, Krishna, Shiva, Buddah, Yahweh, do not exist, different from the assertion that the Christian god doesn't exist either?

The entire system of 'god' is directly set up in ambiguity to allow for any imagined explanation to manuever reality in order to reach the goal of retaining the preconvieced conclusion.

Atheism is not saying "i know everything, therefore i know there is no 'God'."

Atheism is stating that there is absolutely no evidence for any 'god', just like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Emperor being a descendent of the sun god,furthermore there is ample evidence that 'god' is used as a tool to control society and gain power, just like Santa is really a tool to convince kids to be good, or just have fun with a ceremony and get the 'fam' together to exchange presents, and therefor there is no real 'god' other than the concept that exist in peoples' minds and acts as a sociological tool.

Anonymous said...

As an agnostic, I recognize that I am not 'all-aware'.

Recognizing that an 'all-aware' being also knows this, I believe that we are given the means in which to validate 'truth' least we all end up literally drinking the kool-aid. Reason and understanding are then the only tools that I see that can be used to interpet reality such that I will learn 'truth' as I progress through my life.

Furthermore, I cannot put blind faith in an some ancient text written by other individuals. To do so would be to defer responsiblity for my own understanding. While I can review these texts for meaning, I must personally use my own reasoning in the interpetation of these texts (lest I end up drinking a figurative kool-aid).

In simplier terms, truth makes sense. It make sense in my mind as well as my heart.

This being said, what the hell makes sense about Christian mythology? Does it make sense that Jesus had to die so I could go to heaven because I was doomed from Adam and Eve's choices? Does it make sense that actions are less important than a belief that Jesus was the son of God? Doe it make sense that God would punish me because I don't believe in something that has absolutely nothing to do with how I relate to my fellow man (rightious choices have been around much longer than 2000 years)?

All these considerations lead me to one conclusion: whether or not Jesus existed is really quite irrelevant. We have no means in which to validate the story, many specific of the story don't make any sense and the belief is in no way coupled to how I choose to relate to others.

I'll admit I don't have all the answers. I just demand that others recognize that my answers are as valid as theirs and guarantee me the same position in whatever afterlife comes next.

Of course, many would choose to 'believe' otherwise.

Revenant said...

Revenant, that's what they all say when they can't pay the cable bill.

It would be safe to say that I can't, metaphorically speaking, "pay the cable bill" for religion, as I lack the capacity for blind faith. I need evidence.

That's why I've always been an atheist, ever since I was little.

Seven Machos said...

Evelyn fails to pull out her seventh-grade reading skills:

Science is not a zealotry it is proven

Michael said...

All areas of the human condition need critical self inquiry and the willingness to change one's opinion should the facts prove otherwise. Science accepts and learns from error, religion generally refuses to accept that it can be wrong. If you think otherwise and you are religious, state one incident in with your religious denomination has been wrong in the past and then has corected that error. It has to be your own denomination as it's too easy to pick a different religion and find error.

The one thing that can be said with certainty about religion is that most people in the world are wrong in their religious beliefs. If you are Catholic, 83 % of the world is wrong, if you are Mormon, 99.75% of the world is wrong, if you are Christian Science, then 99.996 % of the world is wrong.

Roderic said...

Good question my foot. It's a weak straw man. Any good Catholic would shut this one down in a nanosecond.

The short response to this "delimma" is: it's a mystery. We don't know enough about God to understand why things are this way and reason alone will only take us so far. If you feel shaken by such arguements it only means your faith is weak.

If you have enough faith you will accept this explanation, and if not you won't. It's simply a matter of faith, which is, after all, a gift that God does not lavish on everyone. Period.

As an agnostic, I think that the biggest, fattest bit of hubris coming from atheists these days is the idea that they can justify atheism by reason alone.

Anonymous said...

As an agnostic, I think that the biggest, fattest bit of hubris coming from atheists these days is the idea that they can justify atheism by reason alone.

And the biggest, fattest bit of hubris coming from Christians is the fact that they can justify God by "faith" alone.

There is no reason to simply "believe" in anything the Bible says, so while we may not know everything about the Universe, reason and science are certainly much more reliable.

Furthermore, Atheism doesn't have to be justified, because everything it stands for IS justified. It simply doesn't stand for what CAN'T be justified. We cannot empirically justify God, so why should the burden be placed on those who DON'T claim God's existence to be true?

Rafael said...

THE ATHEIST MENTAL DISORDER





http://scientistcanotcalculateearth.blogspot.com/


We will look at the theories of evolution in their two main foundations: the expansion of the universe, and the quantum or microorganism. To understand it with reason, thee first subject we are confronted with is God. Let us read a few verses from the Bible. Psalm 14:1 of the Old Testament says, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." This sentence may also be translated as "The fool does not want God in his heart." The result of saying this can be found in the second sentence of the same verse: "They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds."Let us also take a passage from the New Testament. Hebrews 11:6 says, "For he who comes forward to God must believe that He is.

"THREE KINDS OF PEOPLE “

Whether you claim too be a Christian, a non-believer, or a seeker after truth, we will start by examining the subject of God. In this respect the world is divided into three camps. The first is that of the atheists who do not believe in a God. The second consists of the agnostics. They have no sure knowledge about the deity. On the one hand, they dare not say there is no God, but on the other hand, they are not clear if God does exist. We belong to the third category of those who believe in God.

PROSECUTION

Is there a God? I will not try to say yes or no to this question. Rather, I will make this place a law court. I will ask you to be the judge, and I will be the prosecutor. The work of a judge is to make decisions, to approve or disapprove the truth of statements; the work of a prosecutor is to present all the evidence and arguments that he can possibly gather. Before we proceed, we have to be clear about one fact: all prosecutors are not eyewitnesses of crimes. They are not policemen. A policeman may personally witness an event, whereas a prosecutor obtains his information only indirectly. He places all the charges, evidence, and arguments collected before the judge. In the same way, I shall present before you everything that I can possibly find. If you ask whether I have seen God or not, I would say "no." I am reading or demonstrating what I have gathered. My job is to search for facts and to call for witnesses. You are to arrive at a conclusion yourself.

QUALIFICATIONS

Many people assert that there is no God. As a prosecutor I ask you first to check the qualification of these people. Are they qualified to make such claims? Are those who assert that there is no God moral or immoral? Do not just listen to their arguments. Even robbers and swindlers have their arguments. Of course, the arguments support them as robbers and swindlers. The subject of their arguments may be very noble; they may talk about the state of the nations and the welfare of society, but their opinions cannot be seriously considered. They are not worthy of passing such judgments. If a man is upright in his conduct and moral judgment, we can give credibility to his words, but if not, his words lose their credibility. This is especially true when it relates to the question of deity. It is interesting to note that the moral standards of men are directly related to their concept about God. Those who admit their own ignorance have a passable standard, while insistent atheists invariably have a low level of moral responsibility. I do not claim to know all atheists, but of the several thousand that I know, none of them possess a notably commendable morality. You may tell me that there was once a moral atheist, but if there was one, he is dead. Or you may tell me that there will be a moral atheist, but whoever he may be, he is not here yet. At least we can say that for now, we do not know a moral atheist.

NO ATHEIST IS MORAL

Recently in a College at Uk, the geologist, who is a defender of evolution therefore an atheist confess he is arrogant, the atheist said “there is nothing wrong in being arrogant, I’m right, so there is nothing wrong”. He was debating with a Christian professor who never change his good attitude even though he was being ridicule and mocked. Regarding the behavior of the Atheist it was sad to see a defender of science behaving as a child, he do not have moral standards, man who do not have a sense for Gods law, he will not respect anyone , regarding respecting other he is immoral. There were many students on the campus who did not believe in God. They were greatly offended by these words. This atheist offended the Christian professor again and again; the atheist said to him I like to interrupt you. He kept offending the Christian professor saying “you want to believe in God because you are insecure; the proof is that you have the psychological need of God, your God and you are false and have a mental disorder”. This is completely unethical using the right words immoral. Even the body language of this old man of Uk tells, something wrong with him, he cross his arms in a defensive way , he did look the audience , look to the floor and even when he smile was sad. He looks nervous and evasive; his body language showed that something was wrong with him. He made funny gestures and faces at the Christian professor. How can anyone with moral decency shuffle his speaking to do gestures and call to the other professor false in his believes and say that he has a mental disorder.

No atheist has helped you become better? Has he made your thoughts cleaner or your heart purer? Or did it make you just the opposite?"



"Regarding to what they speak”

This atheist use scientific methods of questioning, and this are endless, their speaking for sure is has not good intention. How come they will ask: Why Jews and Muslims who believe in God, hate each other and kill each other because their religion.

Muslims attacked Americans in 9/11 because they hate Americans and do not tolerated Americans way of living.

What are the intentions of these questions? Most of people know that Jews and Muslims have been fighting over their land for thousands of years; it is not for the God in which they believe it has been always the land. And that is their problem is up to then how they deal with it. The atheist confuse them as well others and said they kill each other because their God. Mr. Atheist can you put into your head that is because the land. Or what is what you are really after. Sure you have a bad tongue.

And why do you ask them about 9/11 actually you Atheist went to the Middle East and told them. You hate Americans because they allow prostitutes on the street. Of course they will say they do not like their respectfull woman to be in the street as prostitutes. But you Godless

Man understand, that their government is theocratic, meaning their believe in God is their Law and constitution, they live in a Theocratic society and as humans that is their right.

Why did you bring 9/11 up? USA is democracy. Do you want me to believe that my country USA attacks the Middle East because they want to establish Democracy in the theocratic Middle East? Even if that is truth, if I’m ask I will obey to my president and go to Middle East

And kill or get kill, soldiers obey orders and thousands of young people have died in this war, that is the way that my country is, do you know how many Middle East civilians have died there? Hundred of thousands, those who are dead are better off of those who are among the living ones, their suffering is not a joke and for USA soldiers is a pain in our soul, so who are you to bring up an issue that USA soldiers will never question.

China which is the domicile of more than half the world’s population is communist. Atheist should go there to recruit people. You atheist are in your line of question totally immoral.

I do whish that my president George W. Bush wont let you come to America and I will tell him about your videos The God of delusion and the atheist debate, because in those videos you make fun of my president. Do not think that because our presidents did not claim the rights to the back bone of the net years ago, they will never claim it back.

Now you ask: why believers hate, homosexuals? Isn’t good to see two male’s holdings hands on the streets, and to girls kissing on the train? Maybe, because evolution is not only about natural selection, but about sexual selection. Are evolutionists teaching the children of America about sexual selection, “Sexual selection is a special case of natural selection Sexual selection acts in an organisms’ ability to obtain by any means necessary to successfully copulate with their mate or in groups” Sexual selection simple means I can chose anyone male female is ok. Can you see that your teaching has contaminated humanity?

Do you Atheist hold at what you believe?

Of course not Richard Dawkins has called himself, a cultural Christian. If he is against Christians how he dares to call himself a Christian of any kind, I do believe in God I will always say that I do love God as my Father. But your stamen’s shows that you are not firm in your believe rather, you are liar therefore immoral.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7136682.stm

Their line of question is groundless or they are carrying out and agenda. I think for old man as they are, it is normal to question everything as well senile to think they know everything. They think of themselves as modern scientist question everything even if they don’t know the subject. Because they live in the twenty first century they know better than those who live thousands of years ago. And why they are confused using the word religion as if it means the same as believer. According to the lexicon Webster dictionary “religion is a way to trying to reach or seek God” “a believer in God have already found Him and knows Him”. Why atheists don’t know the dictionary? Do they know Greek or at the least Hebrew languages what about Aramaic or Latin. In the bible there are tree different words in Greek to designated the word “life”

1. Bios referring to the biological life our body

2. Psycho referring to the soul logical means study. The word Psychology means the study of the soul, emotions, mind and will.

3. There is another word for life that is Zoe the highest life. Whenever the bible speaks of eternal life speak of Zoe. In a Greek dictionary you will find the distinction. I wonder what an atheist that only knows the bible superficially how will they explain that in the bible there is a word Zoe that was transliterated from Hebrew to Greek as Zoe.

They should not speak about the bible, because their knowledge is superficial, have they read the bible fifty times? have they read 4000 others books? What about the evolution of species how many times they read it.

For this reason, their whole argument is not worthy of consideration. The question is, "Are you qualified to claim that there is no God?" If your hope is merely hear something that isn’t knew, you have lost your ground already.

IS MAN THE GREATEST?

One day a young man came to me and said, "I do not believe in a so-called God. Man is the greatest. He is the noblest among all creatures. There is no God in this universe; man is everything." We were sitting opposite each other. After hearing what he said, I stood up, went to one side of the room, stooped down, and gazed at him intently. I said, "Do you know that in the past many Americans missionaries went abroad USA specially to China, they came with not support from their churches, during the boxer rebellion many of them died, but sow a seed of life “Zoe” that made of the idolaters Chinese genuine believers, when the communist took over China many were put on jail because of their believe in God, thousands of them died, the bible was taken away, a communist reform took place, everyone have to listen to Mao because communist in China as well Stalinism are base in the cult or worship of the personality of their leader. So believers were whipped out. Because they wont exult Mao over God , but today in china there are 200 millions of genuine believers, how this happen, God did it, can atheist recruit in America or in the world 200 million like them, of course not , so why you say that there is not God and you are greater than Him.

HOW VAST IS THE UNIVERSE?

I then said to the young man, "And here you are! You have not even walked through the whole earth, and yet you consider yourself greater than the whole universe. Let me ask you, do you know how vast the universe is? Take light for example. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Try to calculate how far light travels in one minute, or one hour, or a day, or a year. There are some stars whose light takes three thousand years to reach us. Go and work out how far they are from us! And you think you are so great! I would therefore advise all atheists and young men alike to admit the incompetency of man not only morally, but intellectually and academically as well.

"CAN MAN EXTEND BEYOND THE BOUNDS OF TIME AND SPACE?

Another time when I was in Kaifeng, I met another one of those young, stout atheists. I walked up to him and patted him on the shoulder, saying, "I saw God today!" He stared at me in curiosity and demanded a further word. I replied, "You are God! If you know that there is no God, then you have to be God." He asked for an explanation. I said, "Since you are convinced that there is no God, you must have traveled over the whole earth. If God is not in Shanghai, He may still be in Nanking. You must have been to both places. That is not all. If God is not in Nanking, He may be in Tientsin. You must also have been to Tientsin. But you cannot draw this conclusion simply by being in China; God may be in another country. So you must have been to every country on this earth. If God is not in one place, He may be in another. Therefore, you must have traveled throughout the world. One never knows if God is hiding at the North Pole or the South Pole or in the woods or wilderness somewhere. So you must have combed through all those regions as well. If God is not found on earth, He may be found on the moon. You therefore must have been to the moon. God may also be on other planets or in outer space. This means that you have traveled through space and all the other galaxies as well. If you can say that there is no God, it must mean that you have traveled throughout the whole universe. If this is the case, you must be God yourself."This is not all. Even though you know that God does not exist in Shanghai today, how about yesterday? Perhaps God will come tomorrow. You say that you know there is no God today, but what about last year? And how do you know that God will not come next year? You say that there is no God this year, but what about a thousand years ago? Very well, you must be an everlasting one who knows everything about the past and future. You have to be a being beyond time and space. You must be in Tientsin and in another country at the same time; you must be omnipresent from the east to the west, from the North Pole to the South Pole. Who else but you can be the very God? If you are not God, you can never be qualified to say that there is no God.

"THE EVIDENCE”

Some will immediately step back and say, "I have never said that I know there is no God. One can never tell whether there is a God or not." Well, if you cannot give a conclusion, I will ask witnesses whom I consider trustworthy to present arguments to you and prove the existence of God. Again let me say this, you are the judge, and I am the prosecutor. I am presenting only the evidence before you. Decide for yourself if there is a God.

THE UNIVERSE

First, looks at nature, the world that is before our eyes and every phenomenon in it. We all know that scientific knowledge is the rational explanation of natural phenomena. For example, there is an observed drop in the temperature of a patient. The drop in temperature is a phenomenon, and the explanation for it is scientific knowledge. When an apple falls from the tree, it is a phenomenon. Why does an apple not fly into the air? The explanation for this phenomenon constitutes knowledge. A man with knowledge is a man who has the proper explanations.

ONLY TWO EXPLANATIONS

The universe displays countless phenomena of diverse forms, colors, shapes, and nature. We cannot fail to notice these phenomena before our eyes. The explanation for all these phenomena is known as knowledge. All thoughtful persons have only two explanations as far as the origin of the universe is concerned; there is no third explanation. You have to take one or the other of them. What are these two explanations? The first says that the universe came into being through natural evolution and self-interaction; the second attributes its origin to a personified being with intellect and purpose. These are the only two explanations presented by all philosophers of the world. There is not a third one. Where did the universe come from? Did it come into existence by itself or through chance? Or was it designed by the One from whom we derive the concept of God? You have to think and then make a decision about it. Everything that is by chance has certain characteristics. I would suggest you list all of these in a detailed way, the more the better, and then compare all the phenomena of the universe with your list. Alongside of this make another list of the characteristics which, in your opinion, would be prominent if the universe was created by an intelligent Being. Now by a simple comparison of nature with your two lists, it will be easy to draw a reasonable conclusion.

CHANCE EVENTS

What are the characteristics of things that come about by chance? First, we know that they are unorganized. At the most they can be partially integrated. They can never be totally organized. One can achieve a specified goal by chance once, but he can never achieve a specified goal by chance all the time. Anything that comes together by chance can only be integrated partially, never totally. For example, if I throw this chair to the other side of the room, by chance it may come to rest at a perfect angle. If I do the same with a second chair, it may also lie neatly beside the first one. But this will not keep on happening with the third and the fourth and so on. Chance can only provide partial organization. It does not guarantee total integration. Furthermore, all random interactions are aimless, disorganized, and purposeless. They are without order and structure; they are loose, formless, disorderly, and not directed toward any meaningful purpose. Briefly, we can say that the characteristics of chance events are disharmony, irregularity, inconsistency, purposelessness, and insignificance. We will write down these four characteristics on our list.

CONSISTENCY AND ORGANIZATION

Now let us compare the things in the universe with these characteristics. Take, for example, the human being. He is carried in his mother's womb for nine months and delivered; he grows up and eventually dies. This cycle is repeated for every single individual. Consistency can be observed. It is not a wild game of chance. Again, look at the sun above your head. It does not exist purposelessly. Rather, it has its purpose and significance. Look at the moon, the stars, and the myriads of galaxies through your telescope. Some stars have their own planets. They all follow definite tracks and patterns. They are all organized. Their manner of motion can be calculated and predicted. The calendar in your hand is derived from them. Even next year's calendar can be printed before this year is past. All these show that the universe is organized, consistent, and purposeful.

MICROORGANISMS

Let us turn to the micro-world. Take a thin slice of wood. Put it under a microscope and observe its grain and structure, all meticulously regular and rhythmic. Even a blade of grass and the petal of a flower are finely fashioned. Nothing is unorganized or confused. Everything is disciplined and functional. All these things witness one fact to you: the universe, with its macro and micro aspects, is purposeful and meaningful. Can you say that all these came into existence by chance? Surely you cannot.

IS IT OCCUPIED?

Once I was preaching the gospel with a co-worker of mine in a village. On the way back we were extremely thirsty. There was neither a teahouse nor stream for us to get water. In fact the whole area was uninhabited. After walking for a while we came across a thatched hut. We went to the door quickly and knocked. For a long time there was no answer. We thought that no one lived there. When we opened the door and went in, we found that the floor was swept clean. In one of the rooms was a bed with nicely folded sheets. There was a teapot on the table, and the tea in it was still warm. I said, "Surely someone must be living here. All the arrangements indicate beyond doubt that this place is occupied by someone. We should not drink this tea. We must get out quickly or else people will think we are thieves." We walked out and waited for the owner to return. By observing the arrangements of the house, we concluded that someone was living there, without having seen the occupant. In the same way, we know that God is there by the arrangement of everything in the universe, although we cannot see Him. Every single phenomenon of nature is so balanced, organized, meaningful, and functional. You may say that they come by chance, but it is impossible for me to believe that chance is its sole originator. The Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Only foolish people can say in their hearts that there is no God.

CHANCE OR DESIGN

The universe has to be created by someone with profound wisdom, vast knowledge, and intricate design. If you cannot accept the concept of random formation of the universe, you have to admit that it was created by such a God. There cannot be a third explanation. The choice is left to you. You have to decide if the universe came by chance or whether it was created by God.

A DEMAND AND ITS OBJECT

One witness may not be enough. I will call in another. This time we will consider man's heart. Before doing so, we should also observe one fact: wherever there is a desire, there must first be an object for that desire. For example, an orphan who has never seen his father naturally has a desire for a kind of paternal love. I have asked many people who were orphans, and they all have felt this irrepressible yearning. By this we can see that every desire of the heart arises out of an object in the world. As human beings we have a need for social belonging. We need companionship and mutuality. If you put a boy on a deserted island and he grows up alone, he still has the yearning for companions, for beings like himself, even though he has never seen a human being. This yearning or desire is the very proof that somewhere in the world there is something known as "man." At a certain age, man begins to think about posterity; he starts desiring children and grandchildren. This is not a mere fantasy. This desire stems out of the existence and possibility of offspring. Hence, where there is desire, there is an object for that desire.

THERE IS GOD IN THE HEART

Do we have any desires other than social identity and self-propagation? What other cravings do we have? Deep in everyone there is a craving for God. Whether they are highly civilized races, such as those among the Caucasians, or the ancient civilizations, such as the Chinese civilizations, or the African natives and uncultured aborigines, they all have a common craving --God. As long as they are men, they have a yearning for God, no matter what race or nationality. This is a fact. You cannot argue against it. Everyone is seeking after God. Everywhere man is craving for God. This is very clear. By applying the principle that we just mentioned, we can see that since our heart feels the need for a God, there must necessarily be a God in the universe. Since there is a need for God in the heart, there must be the existence of God in the universe. If no God exists, we would never have such a craving in our heart. We all have an appetite for food. In the same way, we all have an appetite for God. It would be impossible to live if there was only an appetite for food but no food. Likewise, it would be impossible to live if there was a capacity for God but no God.

NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT GOD?

Once an atheist rudely rebuked me in a loud voice: "You said that a man has the psychological need for a God. But there is no such thing, and I do not believe in it." I said, "Well, do you mean to say that you never think about God? In fact, even while you were talking, you were thinking about Him. This indicates that you do have a capacity for God. There is no one who has never thought about God. He may try not to think much about Him. Since this thought is in you, there must be such an object outside of you.

"THE WORDS AND THE HEART”

A young man once came to me to argue about God. He was vehemently against the existence of God. He gave me one reason after another for saying that there is no God. As he was enumerating the various reasons why God should not exist, I listened to him quietly without saying a word. Then I said, "Although you insist that there is no God and support yourself with so many arguments, you have lost your case already." He said, "What do you mean?" I went on to explain: "Your mouth can say as much as you want about there not being a God, but your heart is on my side." He had to agree with me. Although one can give all sorts of reasons in the head, there is a belief in the heart that no argument can defeat. A stubborn person may give a thousand and one reasons, but you can have the boldness to tell him, "You know better in your heart that there is a God. Why bother to look for evidence outside?"Now what would you say? After looking at nature and the universe, after checking with your inner feeling, it is up to you to decide whether or not there is a God. But you should not be irresponsible; your attitude must be sober because everyone has to meet God soon. One day you will all stand before Him. Everything concerning you will be laid bare. On that day you will know God. But now is the time for you to be prepared. We should all be prepared to meet our God



CONSIDER THIS

I shall begin by assuming that the issue of God's existence is settled. We all believe that there is a God. As those who desire to know the truth, we must go one step further to find out what kind of God He is. God is the greatest Unknown. We must spend some time to find out about this unknown One. The next step now is to know what kind of a God He is.


THE BIBLE
In the past few thousand years’ man has been inquiring about the nature of God. Is He kind or is He righteous? Is He indifferent towards us, or is He extremely interested in human affairs? These types of questions are the direct cause of all human religions. What is religion? Religion is man's inquiry about God and his explanation of Him. Through these explanations, different men have arrived at different concepts about God. What kind of God is He? This is a big question. It is also a very serious question. We have all given our thought to this subject at one time or another. The question might even have occurred to our little mind when we were five years old. All men, educated or ignorant, have been intrigued by this question. It comes naturally after some contemplation and observation.

But a person trying to speculate about God is like an ant attempting to understand a human being. It is extremely difficult for the little creature to try to realize our life, nature, and mind. In the same way it is impossible for us to try to comprehend God. For this reason, in the past few thousand years, all kinds of people, theologians and philosophers alike, have done much thinking about Him. What has God been doing all this time? Has He been indifferent to us or has He tried to reveal Himself to us? What is God's attitude? Do you think He would say, "I am God and have nothing to do with human beings. I do not care what you think about me. I shall stay in heaven as God. Let the mortals be ignorant!" Or do you think He has a desire to reveal Himself to man and visit him?
When I was in India, I saw some people lying naked on beds studded with nails. Some walked with bare feet on burning coals. These people devoted a great deal of energy to seeking after God. What has God done to them? Did He hide Himself and take no notice of them at all? Has He not kept Himself as a perpetual mystery? This is a great question. We have to consider it scientifically and objectively in order to find out what God is like.

A few years ago I spoke on a similar subject to some medical students in an auditorium in Cheloo University. I said that man is an organism with a life. God also is a life. Man's life is higher than that of the lower animals, and God's life is even higher than that of man. I asked the students, "Since we realize that all living organisms have some common laws and express some common traits, can you name them?" Different ones then started to bring up different points. At the end we summed up the discussion in this way: all living organisms contain two common characteristics. You can call these characteristics their common expressions or their common laws. First, every life wants to preserve itself. It tends to reproduce itself. There is the ability to produce posterity, to continue its own life. Second, every life wants to have fellowship with other lives. It cannot stand being by itself. When a man cannot find fellowship with another human being, he goes to dogs, cats, fish, or birds and makes friends with animals. All living creatures desire fellowship.
Based on these two characteristics of life, namely, the preservation of itself and fellowship with others, laws of human government are instituted. For example, the death penalty reflects a convict's desire to preserve his own life; punishment comes in the form of taking away and terminating such a life. This is the way to inflict suffering on a life. Imprisonment, as a less serious punishment, cuts him off from having fellowship with others. This reversal of the life principle becomes then a suffering for him. From this we see that punishment is applied according to the principles of life.
With these two chief characteristics in mind, let us turn to the life of God. God is an organism of a higher order than human beings. He is naturally governed by this law of life. We can know God by the characteristics and distinctive features of His life. From this we can deduce whether or not God wants to have fellowship with man.


There are two kinds of religion: religion based on natural concepts and religion based on revelation. Natural religion starts with man as the center. He is the one that is seeking after God and studying about Him. What then is revelation religion? Revelation religion comes directly from God. He is the One who comes to reveal things to us. Man's thoughts are often useless fancies. God's revelation alone is trustworthy. Christianity is different from all other natural religions in that it is a religion that comes from revelation. Christianity begins from God. It is God who comes to seek out man, rather than man who seeks after God.
I will not try to persuade you to believe in Christianity or to read the Bible. I will only make a few suppositions. We will treat the subject in the same way as if we were solving a problem in geometry. We will start from the suppositions and then deduce our arguments step by step. We will examine our reasoning’s to see if they are sound and if our conclusions are logical. As in mathematics, with some problems we work forwards, while with others we work backwards. At any rate, in the end we should be able to tell whether or not a supposition is justified.

We have to make a few suppositions. The first one is that God exists. This in fact has been covered by us already. We have agreed that there is a God. He is a Being who has a purpose.
Second, we assume that God has a desire to reveal Himself to man. If God wants to reveal Himself to man and if He wants us to know Him, how does He do it? In what manner can He be made known to us? If He speaks to us through thunder or writes to us through lightning, we will not be able to comprehend His message. How then does God make Himself known to us?

If He is to reveal Himself and if He wants us to know Him, He necessarily must do it through human means. What then are the common ways that men communicate with one another? First, they do it through speaking and second through writing. All means of communication, whether telegraph, telephone, sign, or symbols, are all included in these two categories. If God is to manifest Himself, these are the only two means for Him to do so. For the present we set aside the aspect of speaking; we will see how God communicates with us through writing.
If God reveals Himself through writing, of all the volumes written by different people throughout the centuries, there must be one book which is divinely inspired. This is a very crucial test. If such a book exists, it proves not only the existence of God, but it contains His written revelation to us as well. Is there then such a divinely written book?
In the search for such a book, let us first mention a few basic principles. Suppose I want to order a book from a publisher. If I can tell him the name and author of the book, there will be no trouble getting it. If, however, I forget the name and author of the book, I can describe the characteristics of it to the publisher, such as the contents, size, color, binding, etc. The publisher will then search through all his books and locates the volume I want. God has one book in this universe. How do we find it? We have to know its characteristics first. If there is any book that has been written by God, it must meet certain conditions or have certain qualifications before one can say that it is from God.


Let me put forth a few propositions. If there is a book written by God, it must first of all mention God. It must tell you that it is from God and that its author is God. This is the first qualification. Second, it must carry a moral tone that is higher than what we commonly know. If it is a fabrication, it can at the most be on the same level as man. Third, if there is such a divine book, it must tell us about the past and the future of this world. Only God knows clearly what occurred in the past and what will happen in the future. Only by telling us these matters will we know Him as God. Fourth, this book must be simple and available so that all may be able to secure and understand it. If there were only one such book in the world, then only a very few people would be able to see it. It would not pass the test unless it is a book accessible to everyone. In the United States there is a group of people who claim to have a book from God. It is engraved in gold and contains only twelve pages. Such a book then would not be accessible to the Chinese. God would never write to us a book at which we could not look.
Now the matter is simplified. Let us repeat these four conditions once more. (1) If such a book exists, it must tell us explicitly that its author is God. (2) It must carry a high tone of morality. (3) It must give a detailed description of the past and the future of the universe. (4) It must be available. Let us pick out some of the more important writings throughout human civilization and check them against these qualifications to see if any meets our requirements.

We will start from books that are generally considered to be good. Let us take the Chinese classics of Confucius. They are immediately disqualified under the first requirement, for none of them claims to be written by God. They do have a high tone of morality, but they fail to give the origin and destiny of the world, the universe, and man. This does not mean that they are worthless books; it means that they do not contain the qualifications we want. They are not what we are looking for.
Let us go to the classics of other cultures. There are numerous volumes of famous writings, but none of them passes the first test. They are all clearly written by man. They may be masterpieces in philosophy or morality, but they are not written by God, nor are they divinely inspired. We have to set them aside.
There is a book in India called the Rig-Veda. It once dominated Hinduism. However, it does not claim to be written by God.
Another book called the Avesta, written by a Persian named Zoroaster, is also extremely influential in the Middle East. It does not claim to be from God either. Moreover, its moral tone is not especially commendable.
Let us come to the Koran of Mohammedanism. This is the closest one we can find. It tells us that it comes from God; it meets the first requirement. However, it does not fulfill the second requirement, for its moral tone is too low. The heaven it describes is full of lusts and flesh. God could never write a book with such licentiousness and immorality. Hence, this book does not pass the test of morality.


After searching through all the books, you have to come finally to the Bible. If God desires to communicate with man, and if He does so through writing, then this is the only book that can pass the four tests. Hence, this must be the book God has for man.
What does this book say? In the books of the law in the Old Testament, it says, "Thus said the Lord," at least five hundred times. Other books in the Old Testament repeat the phrase about seven hundred times. In addition to the references in the New Testament to the speaking of God, the Bible has more than two thousand claims of divine origin. If God has no intention of communicating with man, we can forget about this book. But if He does communicate with man through writing, then this book has to be of immense value. Can you find another book where God is claimed as its author that many times?
We have to see if the Bible meets the second qualification. Let us take a look at its moral tone. Everyone who has studied this book confesses that it carries the highest moral standard. Even the sins of the noblest persons are recorded and condemned without mercy. Once a strong opposer of the Bible was asked by his son, "Why are you so strong against the Bible?" He answered, "If I do not condemn it, it will condemn me." This book does not let us get by easily. The human concept is that all sexual acts outside marriage are considered as fornication. The Bible, however, says that even an evil thought is fornication. Human morality condemns an act of killing as murder, but the Bible condemns a slight hatred in the heart as murder.
We consider a man who lets his enemy get by without paying vengeance as forgiving. But the Bible charges man to love his enemy. How high is its moral tone and how low we are before its standards! You cannot help but admit that it presents the best ethical code for humanity.

Furthermore, this book describes in detail the past and future of the universe. Once a friend told me that he could believe in everything the Bible says except the parts in Genesis and Revelation where it talks about the origin and destiny of the heavens and earth. I told him that if this is indeed a book from God, it must, of necessity, contain these matters. If the Bible did not contain Genesis and Revelation, it would be the same as any other book, and we would have to look for another book; it would not be the one we want. But the past condition of the world and its future destiny are recorded here. Hence, the third qualification is also met.


What is the circulation of such a book? Last year (1935), more than two hundred million copies were sold. Can you name another book that has such a high circulation rate? This statistic, moreover, is not limited to just last year; every year the number has remained approximately the same. In one sense this book is very popular. In another sense it is like a thorn in your hand; it pierces you. This book gives you a headache. It creates an unspeakable uneasiness within man. It even causes man to oppose it. In spite of this, its annual sales are still over two hundred million.
Furthermore, this book is translated into more than seven hundred twenty languages. In every country and among every race, there is a translation of this unique book. It is extremely easy for anyone to obtain a Bible anywhere in the world. If the Rig-Veda were God's book, then more than half of the world would perish due to a failure in obtaining it. Even if you put the Rig-Veda in my hand, I would still be unable to understand it. If only the educated ones can contact God, then I am destined to go to hell. If only the Indians have the opportunity, we Chinese, as well as other races, are out of hope. If God speaks through the Rig-Veda, then where can we find that book? Maybe we can only find the original copy in the London Museum. And even that may not contain the original meaning of God's revelation to man.

This is not all. The Bible contains sixty-six books and it is divided into the Old and New Testaments. It was written by no less than thirty people. The span from the time the first book was written to the time when the last book was finished is more than sixteen hundred years. The places where they were written are also different. Some were written in Babylon, some in Italy, some at one end of Asia Minor, others at the other end of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the writers themselves differed in their backgrounds. Some were lawyers; some were fishermen. There were princes, and there were shepherds. All these writings by men of different backgrounds, languages, environments, and periods are put together. The amazing thing is that it is still a complete book.
All those who have had some experience of editing know that in order to put together a few articles written by different authors, it is necessary for the authors to be of comparable level of academic achievements and viewpoints. Even when the academic standard and viewpoints are similar, there will still be conflicts and contradictions when you put five or six articles together. But the Bible, though complex in contents, contains history, poetry, laws, prophecies, biographies, and doctrines and was written by so many different ones at different times and under different circumstances, yet when you put them together, they surprisingly run as one continuous volume. There is no conflict or contradiction. They are written in one breath.


If you read this book carefully, you have to admit that God's hand is behind all the writings. More than thirty people of varied backgrounds and ideas in different times and places wrote these sixty-six books. When you group them up, they link together as if they were written by one individual. Genesis was written about fifteen hundred years before Christ, and Revelation was written ninety-five years after Christ. There is a time span of sixteen hundred years. One talks about the beginning while the other projects the end of the world. Yet whatever begins in Genesis is concluded in Revelation. This amazing feature cannot be explained in human terms. Every word of it has to be written by God through man. God is the motivating One behind the whole composition.

There is another remarkable thing about this book. In itself it is a book that gives life. Yet countless numbers of people have lost their lives for its sake. There was a time when anyone who held this book in his hand would immediately be put to death. The most powerful empire in history was the Roman Empire. There was a time when this empire summoned all its forces to destroy this book. Everyone who possessed it would be inhumanly persecuted and later killed or burned. They wiped out thousands of people and burned countless copies of the Bible. They even set up a monument at a place where they killed Christians. On it was the inscription: "Christianity is buried here." They thought that when they had burned all the Bibles and removed all the Christians, they would see Christianity lying there beneath their feet. But it was not long after that when the Bible came back again. Even in a country like England, which has already accepted Christianity as its state religion, you can still find tombs of martyrs for Christ if you visit different places there. Here and there you can find places where the Bible was once burned. Or you may come across a tombstone that tells you that such and such a person tried so hard and wrote so many books in his life to oppose the Bible. One place may tell you that the Bible was once burned there, and another place may tell you that Christians were once killed there. One signpost may point you to a statue of martyrdom, and another may point to a site of Bible burning.
Why is it that so many people have tried so hard to oppose this book? Why is it that men would pass by other books, but would either oppose this book with every fiber of their being or would put their whole life to the stake for it? There must be something extraordinary here. Even if you do not believe that this is God's word, you have to admit that there is something unusual about this book.


This book seems to be very simple and easy. If you consider it from the historical point of view, it tells the origin of the universe, the earth, the plants, human beings, how they established their kingdoms, and how they will eventually end. This is all. There is nothing special about it. Yet it has been handed from generation to generation for centuries. Today it is still with us. Moreover, if you do not confess that it is truth, you have to conclude that it is false. You can disregard many books, but you cannot ignore this book. Nor will it ignore you. It will not let you go. It demands a verdict from you. It will not pass you by.

Another remarkable thing about this book is that almost half of it is prophecy. Among the prophecies, almost half of them are fulfilled. The other half is for the future and await fulfillment. For example, it predicted the fate of the nations of Moab and Ammon and of the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Today when people talk about big cities, they mention London and Shanghai. Then it was Tyre and Sidon. They were two chief cities of the ancient world. The prophecies concerning these two cities were all fulfilled. Once I was in the Middle East. For some reason I did not visit those two places. However, I bought two pictures of those cities. It amazed me when I looked at those pictures. I could not help but believe in the Bible. It was prophesied that if these two metropolitan cities did not repent, they would be destroyed and devastated. Their land would become hills of rocks and pebbles where fishermen would come to dry their nets. In the pictures that I bought, there was nothing but fishing boats and open nets on the shore. This is only one small fact that proves the reliability of biblical prophecy.
If you compare past events with the prophecies in the Bible, you will find that they all correspond one with another. For another example, take the birth of Christ. Isaiah prophesied concerning a virgin with child a few hundred years before Christ actually came. Later, He was born indeed of the Virgin Mary. The prophecy was accurately fulfilled. As the prophecies concerning the past have been fulfilled, so the prophecies concerning the future must also be fulfilled.

If God desires to communicate with man, He must do so through common human channels of communication. He must use the human language or human writings. In other words, there must be a book in the world that is a direct revelation from God. If such a book does exist, it must contain the four criteria we mentioned. Now we can say that such a book is found. This book tells us that God desires to have fellowship with us. He speaks to us through this book. Through it God is no longer an unknown Being. We can now know Him. This book is the Bible. I hope all of you will read it .



THIS IS A SERIOUS MATER, IS HE CRAZY? A LUNATIC? A LIAR? PLEASE YOU’RE VERIDICT



God desires to reveal Himself to us. He does so through means that are comprehensible to man. These are namely written and spoken language. We have seen how God reveals Himself through writing. Now we want to take a look at His revelation through speaking.
Suppose that you have had correspondence with a person for many years; however, you have never seen him. Naturally, you would want to know him more by having some direct acquaintance with him. Full understanding of someone cannot be achieved merely through writing. Direct contact gives a better chance. It seems as if communication through speech is of a more intimate and thorough nature than writing. When spoken language is added to written language, communication becomes enhanced. If you take away either of the two, you have a gap. Of course, if you take away both, communication is completely voided. Effective communication is always carried out by these two means.
If God's intention is to reveal Him to us, He must of necessity do so through speaking. But how does God speak? Does He trumpet from the heavens? If so, we would all be frightened to death. We would all run away. No one would dare to listen. There is a chasm between Him and us. He, being so high and great, would drive us away from His holiness. How then does He speak?
THE WINTER ON THE MOUNTAIN
let me relate to you a story. One winter I was staying on the mountain Lu-shan, recovering from an illness. It was immediately after the war, and there was practically no one living on the mountain. In the vicinity of my dwelling, one could hardly see anyone all day long. I am a quiet person by nature. This kind of environment was very appealing to me. Not only was it quiet there, but the weather was cold as well. From morning till dusk, all I saw was a boy who came three times to deliver my meals. At the beginning I was quite at ease. But after a while, even a person like me began to feel lonely.
One day after lunch I went to take a nap. There was a balcony outside my bedroom window. When I woke up I saw some little creatures gathering around the balcony. Bits of my meal had been dropped there, and the birds were busily chirping around them. As they hopped around, they chirped and made many cheerful noises. I said to myself, "All right. Since I cannot find any human beings, I will try to make friends with these little birds."
I rose up and went out to greet them. But in an instant they all flew away. An idea came to me. I took some of the leftover rice and began to arrange it in rows, with only a few grains in the first row and gradually increased them towards the entrance of the doorway. I hid behind the door and watched them coming. Soon they gathered around again. I said to me, "This is my chance." I walked out and began to make friends with them. But the minute they saw me, they all scattered. Some perched on the branches of the tree across the balcony and stared at me, as if trying to determine what my intention was. Every time I approached them, they flew away, and every time I walked away, they came back. This went on a number of times.
I wanted to preach to the birds. I wanted to tell them, "Little birds, I have no special intention in doing this. This is winter on the mountain, and food is scarce. I have enough food with me, and I just want to share it with you. Please be at peace and come down. I only ask that as you eat, I can sit among you. I want to listen to your songs and watch you playing. Come. Let us be friends..." But the birds would not come. They did not understand me. I had to give up.
Later I had a certain realization within. I began to preach to myself. I said, "This body of mine is too big. If I could shrink from five feet eleven inches to the size of a bird, and even change myself into a bird, they would not be alarmed by my presence. I could then tell them my heart's intention, and we could spend the winter on the mountain Lu-shan together."

We have a similar problem today. If God remained God, we could never understand Him. If He talked to us in His language, we would be altogether lost. If God wants to reveal Himself through speaking and have fellowship with man, He must shrink Himself to such a degree that He and we are the same. Only then would He be able to speak to us and tell us of Himself and of the mysteries of the universe. Only then would we be able to understand Him.
Has God become a man to reveal Himself through His speaking? Let us again use the method of supposition. What if God revealed Himself through the human language? What if He became a man and fellowshipped with man? The implication is tremendous here! It would mean that in this world, among all the human beings throughout history, one person was not merely a man, but God as well! If it is granted that God became a man, there must be a mortal who was also divine. We need to find out about this One.

This is a thorny task. But we will employ the effective method we have adopted—namely, setting down a few principles. Then we will search according to these qualifications and directions. We want to base our evaluation on what manner of life a person should possess and what qualifications he must have if he is God.
The first condition that this person must fulfill is that he must claim to be God while he is on earth. He cannot be apologetic about it. He must declare boldly that he is God. Only then can we know who he is. Without this declaration, we have no way to guess his identity. Hence, a declaration is our first qualification.
Second, the way this person came into the world must be different from ours. If I said that I am God and yet was born in the same manner as every other mortal, my words would carry no force. If on the other hand, I dropped down from heaven; my assertion would be taken seriously. The way this person comes into being must be extraordinary. He must come in an absolutely different fashion; otherwise, his words will not carry the necessary weight.
Third, this man must bear a moral standard that is far above that of all other human beings. He must have God's holiness, and his life must bear the mark of God's righteousness. For example, if I became a bird and lived in exactly the same way as other birds, without showing them anything extraordinary, I could not convince them that I was actually a man. If God is to become a man, His moral behavior must be of the highest quality. This is the only way that we could identify Him as God.
Furthermore, if a person is God, he must necessarily be able to perform things which no mortal can do. If he can achieve what we cannot achieve and know what we do not know, we can say that he is truly God.
Lastly, this person must be able to tell us the divine purpose concerning man. What was God's purpose in creating the universe and man? How does He take care of human pains and sorrows? What is the origin and ultimate solution of everything in the universe? What should our attitude towards God be? All these he must reveal to us. Unless this one shows us what we do not see, we cannot say that he has shown us any revelation.
We will set down these five conditions and put the whole of humanity to the test. Let us find out if someone meets the five requirements. Such a person would surely be qualified to be God.
The first person to put to the test should be you. Of course, you are not God, because you have never claimed to be God. Nor have I ever claimed to be. So that rules out you and me. Very well, now we will introduce Confucius. If you read his books, you will find that he did conduct a very moral and proper life. But he never claimed to be God either. Hence, he fails in the first step.
What about Sakya Muni, the founder of Buddhism? Not only was there an absence of the claim of divinity, but his philosophy itself is void of deity. He did not believe in the existence of God. Since he had no God, he cannot be God either.
Next, go to Mohammed. He believed in God. But he never claimed to be God. He called God Allah and himself the prophet of Allah. If you go through every person in history, you will discover that no one ever claimed to be God except One. That One was Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to be the living God. No other person put forward such a claim.

How can Jesus of Nazareth claim to be God? Before going on, we have to pause for a moment to seriously consider the matter. It is not a light thing to claim to be God. A person who makes such a claim falls into one of three categories. He must belong to one of these three categories; he cannot belong to all three. First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic. Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie. Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God. You can only choose one of the three possibilities. If you do not believe that he is God, you have to consider him a madman. If you cannot take him for either of the two, you have to take him for a liar. There is no need for us to prove if Jesus of Nazareth is God or not. All we have to do is find out if He is a lunatic or a liar. If He is neither, He must be the Son of God. These are our three choices. There is no fourth.
What did Jesus of Nazareth say about Himself? In John 10:30 He said, "I and the Father are one." We need some explanation here. In the Bible the invisible God is called the Father. The Son manifests and expresses the Father. What is hidden is the Father, and what is expressed is the Son. The Son is the One who can be seen and touched. Behind, you have the Father. In front, you have the Son. The two are actually one. They are the two sides of the same reality. When we talk about two, we refer to the fact that one is hidden while the other is revealed. When we talk about one, we say that the revealed One is just the hidden One in manifestation. This is the biblical interpretation of the Father and the Son.
Therefore, when Jesus of Nazareth one day said, "I and the Father are one," it was a statement that no one else could make. This man was saying in reality that He and the invisible God are one entity. He is God and God is He. God is the invisible Father, and He is the manifested Son. The Father and the Son are one! Who can this One be that made such a claim? Is He a madman? Is He out to deceive us?
After Jesus spoke such a word, what reaction do we see? "The Jews again took up stones that they might stone Him. Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these works are you stoning me? The Jews answered Him, We are not stoning You for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, are making Yourself God" (vv. 31-33). The Jews understood very well that Jesus' words meant that He claimed to be God. After hearing these words they wanted to stone Him to death. A claim was made by Jesus, and an accusation was charged by the Jews, both of which concerned His divinity. Was Jesus insane? Did He speak pure nonsense just to cause people to kill Him? Or was He a swindler setting up some kind of a scheme? If so, what was He trying to gain? Was He trying to gain death?

Perhaps we will go back a little bit to the earlier parts in the Gospel of John and see what it says there. John 1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Why has no one seen God? It is because God is invisible. Jesus said that He was the only Begotten of the Father; He expressed the invisible Father. When you see the only Begotten, you see the Father.
Again He spoke concerning Himself, "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven" (3:13). Have you ever heard anyone say such words? I cannot say, "No one has been to Shanghai, but he who comes from Shanghai to Tientsin, even I, Watchman Nee, who is in Shanghai." If I say so, I would be gibbering nonsense. But Jesus was speaking a heavenly language. He said that He came out of heaven and is still in heaven. What can a person be if he can be in two places simultaneously? Either he is God or he is a lunatic or he is a liar. If you have not yet believed in Christ, please give a verdict to this issue. Who is this man?
Let us read John 3:31-32: "He who comes from above is above all; he who is from the earth is of the earth and speaks out of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of this He testifies, and no one receives His testimony." He said that He came out of heaven and was above all. After a while He said the same thing again. Let us see what the purpose behind these words is. He came to preach the things of heaven, but no one received His words. He mentioned words like "heaven," "above all," "out of heaven," etc. What kind of man was He? Confucius never said this. Neither did Sakya Muni or Mohammed. Was Jesus of Nazareth a madman, a liar, or the Son of God?
John 5:17 says, "But Jesus answered them, My Father is working until now, and I also am working." He always put Himself in the same place as the Father. Verse 18 says, "Because of this therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." When we read His words now, we may consider them to be ordinary remarks. But the Jews knew what He was saying. They knew that He was making Himself equal with God. The words in fact meant that God is His Father and He came to express God. The invisible One is God, and the visible One is He. Therefore, the Jews sought to kill Him. What should we do about such an unusual person?

John 6:46 says, "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except Him who is from God, He has seen the Father." Here the word is clearer. He said that no one other than Himself has ever seen God. Only He knew what the Father is like. I can only say with soberness and reverence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Read John 8:18. What did He say? "I am one who testifies concerning me, and the Father who sent me testifies concerning me." The question in verse 19 is most interesting: "They said then to Him, Where is Your Father? Jesus answered, you know neither me nor My Father; if you knew me, and you would know My Father also." Have you seen what He was saying? They had seen Him, yet did not know Him. Of course they would not know the Father either, whom they had not seen. If men knew Him, they knew God. Who is He then? If knowing Him equals knowing God, is that not the same as saying that He is God and God is He?
Read John 8:23: "And He said to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world." The preposition "from" in this verse is ek in Greek. It means "out of." That is how it should be translated. He said, "You are out of this world, but I am not out of this world." This man claimed to be from above; He did not come out of this world. Who can He be?
The Jews were confused. They were totally bewildered. Who was this man? The ancestor of the Jews is Abraham. They boasted of being the descendants of Abraham in the same way the Chinese boast of being the offspring of Hwang-it. The name Abraham was highly venerated among the Jews. Now they brought out Abraham. Please read John 8:53: "Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too. Who are you making yourself?" How did Jesus answer them? Was He greater or smaller than Abraham? In verse 56 Jesus said, "Your father Abraham exulted that he would see my day, and he saw it and rejoiced." What is this? Even Abraham had to look forward to Jesus! Hence, verse 57: "The Jews then said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Now please pay your attention to Jesus' answer in verse 58: "Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I am." Tell me who this man is. If I told you that before Hwang-it was, I, Watchman Nee am there, you would immediately write me off as a lunatic. Some of you would say that I am a liar. The words Jesus spoke made Him a madman, a liar, or God. There can be no fourth alternative.

We have to read on. In John 10:37-38 Jesus said, "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works so that you may come to know and continue to know..." Know what? The clause following is very crucial. It is a big statement: "...that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Who then is this man? He said that He was in God and God was in Him.
Passages like the above are numerous in the Bible. I shall mention one more. Read carefully John 14:6-7: "Jesus said to him, I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known My Father also; and henceforth you know Him and have seen Him." It says clearly that if you know Jesus of Nazareth, you have known the invisible God. Why is this so? It is because He is God.

One of the disciples was confused. John 14:8 says, "Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us." Philip was asking to be shown the Father who had been mentioned again and again by Jesus. Verse 9 says, "Jesus said to him, have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how is it that you say, Show us the Father?" Here Jesus made it very plain that to see Him is to see God. He made no apology about it. He is God. There is no need to see the Father anymore. If you see Him, you see God!
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? What would you say? Is He merely the founder of the Christian religion? Is He merely an example of self-sacrifice and humanitarianism? Is He a social reformer? Is He an advocate for universal love, peace, and freedom? Listen to what He said about Himself. He said that He is God. What is your conclusion? Is He a lunatic or a liar? Is He a hoax, or is He God? This is a vital question.
Can He be a madman? If you read His biographies in the Gospels and observe His life and manner, you will realize that not only was He sane and sound, He was very sober and firm. If there is a perfectly sound person in this world, He has to be the One. His mind was clear, and His mentality was alert. If you study His deeds and words carefully, you have to confess that His thoughts are very logical and consistent, and His manners are most comely and appropriate. To opposing ones He only needed to reply a few sentences, and their arguments against Him were defeated. He did not have a trace of madness in Him. A madman could never have done what He did.
Then is He a liar? A liar always lies for a profit. If there is no profit to be gained, what is the purpose of lying? Why was Jesus crucified? For no other reason than that He claimed to be God. At the last judgment, the hour when His release or crucifixion was to be deliberated, He was examined as to who He was. What was His answer? He said that the Son of Man would be seen sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high, descending on the clouds in glory (Matt. 26:64). Even then He claimed to be God. As a result, He was crucified on the cross. Is there a liar who would sacrifice his life for his lie?

Once I met a person who wanted to talk with me about our faith. He read some books about Jesus and admitted that Jesus had a high standard of morality. He could consider Jesus as a perfect man, a model for humanity. But he could not believe that Jesus is God. I said, "If you admit that He has a high standard of morality, then He at least is not a liar. If you agree that He is not a liar, then you have to accept His claim of divinity as truth. He repeatedly asserted that He is God. If you admire His morality, you have to recognize His divinity as well. Jesus of Nazareth is God!"

Please read John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Verse 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and tabernacle among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality." What is the "Word" mentioned in verses 1 and 14? Verse 1 speaks of the relationship the Word has with God. In reference to when, the Word was there from the beginning. In reference to where, the Word was with God. In reference to what, the Word was God. Today the Word has become flesh; He has taken on a human body and dwelt among men. As to how He dwells, it says that He is "full of grace and reality," and "we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father." Who is this One? He is Jesus of Nazareth.
Here we have only seen one of the five qualifications mentioned earlier. Only Jesus of Nazareth meets this first condition. This proves that He is God. We shall go on to see the four other conditions or qualifications. Jesus of Nazareth must meet all the other four qualifications before we can conclude that He is God.



GOD COME INTO THE WORLD

If God is to be a man, He must come into the world in a way that is very different from all other mortals. We come into the world through our parents and are conceived by our mothers. To ascertain whether Jesus of Nazareth is an ordinary person or the incarnated God, we need to examine His birth. If His birth was no different from ours, we have to conclude that He is nothing but a man. Not only does He have to pass the first qualification, but He needs to pass the second one. Do not hastily believe in a person simply because he claims to be God; we have to test him by our second criterion. If he is indeed God, he must be born in an extraordinary manner.
If we study the birth of Jesus, we will find that it was very different from ours. He was born of a virgin. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament tell us this fact. Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary.

Before we go on, we have to realize that there are two ways to know God: by natural speculation or by revelation. According to natural speculation, one meditates and conjectures about God. In revelation, God speaks to man. We want to look at the revelation of God. We want to know what God says.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke show us that Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. This important fact enables us to conclude that He is no ordinary person, and it justifies our being a Christian.
The natural mentality cannot readily accept this fact. Some years ago, a big debate was conducted in England. On one side were prominent leaders of modernistic schools of theology. On the other side was a famous Presbyterian pastor-theologian. Four major topics were raised. Twice a day, for four consecutive days, each side took turns delivering a long speech for a total of eight messages. One of the topics was related to our subject—the virgin birth. The modernistic theologians asserted that one reason alone was enough to disprove the virgin birth—the event was biologically impossible. According to the law of biology, it is impossible to have the virgin birth.
On the same day, their opponent gave the rebuttal. Let me briefly mention a few of his arguments. He said, "Our friends have denied the possibility of such an event on the ground of biological law. I am here to ask whether such an event happened. They asked, 'Can this happen?' They referred you to academic principles. I am asking, 'Has this happened?' I point to a historical occurrence. It is one thing to be academically justified. It is another thing to be historically recorded."
As he was speaking, he drew out a newspaper from his pocket. In the paper was an article about an accident that had happened a few days earlier. A man was driving on a winding mountain road. Due to carelessness, the car slid and tumbled down a deep gorge. The car was totally wrecked. Not even a square foot of the vehicle was left untouched. It was thoroughly damaged. But the man on the ground was absolutely unhurt. Later, he rose up and walked away. The theologian read the passage aloud and said, "This car tumbled down a thousand feet into ruin. You cannot even find a square foot of whole metal, and yet the man was unharmed. My friends would ask, 'Could this man live?' But my question is, 'Is this man alive?' He is alive! If you consider the possibility, there is none. But if you consider the fact, there it is!"
What we have is a historical fact. If we try to study the virgin birth from a scientific point of view, we may conclude that this is an impossible event. But my question is whether or not such an event occurred. The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus was born of a virgin. So does the Gospel of Luke. At least you have to say that these records have said such a thing and that such an event was recorded in history. At least you have to believe that there is a historical event.
I am not asserting that Matthew and Luke were inspired by the Holy Spirit when they wrote their books. Whether these books were divinely inspired or not, we will set aside for a moment. We are saying that there were a few people who followed Jesus. They wrote His biography. Both Matthew and Luke were contemporaries of Jesus. Matthew followed Him for more than three years. Luke was not as close, but he "carefully investigated all things" (Luke 1:3). I believe that when he wrote his gospel, the mother of Jesus was still alive. What did they say about the birth of Jesus? They all testified that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. His birth was absolutely different from ours. Today, after almost two thousand years, some who never saw Jesus, never talked to Mary His mother, and never met Joseph His father; conclude that He was not born of a virgin. How can you say that He was not born in this manner? Are you ruling out the possibility of such an event and concluding that it did not happen because of some arguments you proposed in your study room or some theories you fashioned in the laboratory?

Perhaps we should read the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. There are forty-two generations in the genealogy. Beginning from the first generation, it repeatedly says, "So-and-so begot So-and-so." This phrase is used through verse 15, which says, "And Eliud begot Eleazar, and Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob." Verse 16 continues, "And Jacob begot Joseph." The surprising thing is that the next part of the sentence does not continue with "Joseph begot Jesus." Rather, it says, "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." When the line reaches Joseph, the pattern is dropped. This is because Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. His way of birth was very different from ours.

We have seen that His method of coming into the world was an unusual one. Now we want to look at His way of departing from the world. As we shall see, this was also contrary to our ordinary deaths. No one can ever predict the place, time, and manner he or she is going to die. A hundred years from now, all of us here will be dead. But no one knows how we are going to die. Jesus of Nazareth, however, foresaw His own death. He knew exactly when, where, and how it was to happen.

Once when someone told Him that He was going to be killed, He answered that it was not acceptable for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). He knew that He was going to die in Jerusalem. One day, He told His disciples that the hour had come. Not only did He sense the imminence of His death; He told others that His death hour had come. He knew also how He would die. A number of times He mentioned that He would be crucified. This was recorded at least three times in Matthew. Not only was this man different in His way of entering into the world, but His manner of departure was no less extraordinary. Both His birth and His death were very unusual. Is this the Son of God? Let us consider the third qualification. What kind of morality did Jesus of Nazareth have? Was He the same as we are? Did He ever sin?
I like the sentence Jesus spoke in John 8. Many were opposing Him at that time. They surrounded and cross-examined Him. In return He asked, "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (v. 46). This was a tremendous challenge! Which one of us would dare to stand before everyone and challenge to be convicted of sin? Whoever dared do such a thing would be put to shame the minute his wife stood up to testify against him. Perhaps, in less than five minutes, seven or eight people would immediately rise up to expose his lies and unfaithfulness. But when Jesus made such a statement, no one was able to convict Him of sin. There have been a countless number of saints and sages throughout the ages, but none was bold enough to claim to be perfect and sinless. Why is it that Jesus alone dared to make such a claim?
All I can say is that this man is either arrogant to the extreme or holy to the uttermost. A proud person may talk in an outlandish manner because he does not know himself; he has no realization of what kind of person he is. But when Jesus challenged, "Which of you convicts me," there was no way He could be humble or polite about it. He is without sin, and He is holy to the uttermost.
Jesus of Nazareth is not like Confucius, who said that given some more time, he would be rid of big, moral flaws. Jesus is sinless. When He made such a statement, He made it before His enemies. If there had been a slight misconduct on His part, the Jews would have caught it right away. The Jews are not prolific writers; they have not produced many books other than the Holy Scripture. But after Jesus, many books were written by the Jews to contradict Him. All these books deny His divinity, but none touch His morality. Of all the opposing writings, none can prove that Jesus ever sinned.
Every philosopher or founder of religion, at one time or another, has said, "I repent," or "I regret such and such a matter. I will do better from now on." But Jesus of Nazareth never repented. A sinner must of necessity repent. But what does a sinless man have to repent of? Jesus never apologized to anyone; He never did anyone any wrong.
When I was in England, some British friends asked for my opinion concerning their people. I said, "Among you, once ever so often, I hear, 'Excuse me' and 'I beg your pardon.'" To the English, anyone who does not know how to make these two remarks has to be an extremely base person, for he knows not his own mistakes. Anyone can make a mistake, but when one refuses to admit his mistakes, he makes himself vulgar. For this reason we have to say, "Excuse me" and "I beg your pardon" all the time.
The amazing thing is that Jesus of Nazareth never said "sorry" to anyone. He never apologized. Could He be so evil as to ignore His conscience completely? Was He oblivious to His own errors? Or is He really sinless? If so, He cannot say, "sorry." It is not a matter of humility or politeness to Him, but a matter of maintaining His standing.

I love the story about Jesus once walking down a road. Many people were gathered around Him, hoping to see the resurrection of a dead person. It was so crowded that the people pressed upon each other. One woman, who suffered from an issue of blood for years, thought that Jesus would surely be able to heal her since He had performed all kinds of miracles. She did not come to the Lord directly. All that she did was touch the fringe of His garment, and the sickness was immediately healed (Mark 5:25-29).
Jesus felt something, turned around, and asked, "Who touched me?" How did the disciples respond? They said, "You see the crowd pressing upon you and you say, who touched me?" (v. 31). He should have asked, "Who pressed me?" instead of "Who touched me?" If I were Jesus, I would have said in a gentlemanly fashion, "Excuse me." But Jesus did not need to say that. When He said that it was a touch, He meant that it was a touch and not a pressing against. The disciples only knew that many thronged around Him. But He knew that someone "touched" Him. He knew what He was doing. There was no need for apology. He knows no sin because He is without sin.
Let me mention another story about Jesus. One day He came to the synagogue in His hometown. Someone handed Him the Scripture, and He started to read from a passage about Himself. The people there, however, despised Him. He remarked that a prophet is always despised in His own place. For this reason, God would not choose them but would rather go to someone else. After they heard this, they were very indignant. They carried Him outside and tried to throw Him down a cliff. I like very much what Jesus did then. He passed through their midst (Luke 4:16-30). If someone tried to push us over a cliff, we would struggle to escape. But He was no ordinary person. He simply passed through the persecutors' midst. They could do nothing except let Him pass by! He is without sin.
Again, you see the same Jesus preaching to a ruler at midnight in a house (John 3:2), while choosing to converse with a woman beside a well at midday (4:5-7). Everything He did was very proper. No one can say anything against Him. You cannot find fault in Him.

Another time some opposes came to tempt Him. They asked whether or not it was lawful to pay tax to Caesar. The Jewish nation, as you know, no longer existed then, and Caesar of Rome was their king. If Jesus said "no" to the question, He would have been involved in a political issue, and the opposes would have had an excuse to condemn Him. If He said "yes," all the Jews would have counted Him as siding with the Romans and hated Him. The result, of course, would have favored the opposes. This was a question that could not be answered "yes" or "no."
How did Jesus reply? He said, "Show Me the coin for the tribute" (Matt. 22:19). He was wise. He even had the opposing ones draw out the money from their own pockets. Then He asked, "Whose is this image and inscription?" (v. 20). They had to admit that it was Caesar's. Jesus gave an excellent reply: "Render then the things that are Caesar's to Caesar and the things that are God's to God" (v. 21). With that He dismissed the whole case. This is where His majesty lies. He never made a mistake. You cannot get a case out of Him.

I cannot enumerate all His deeds. Everything He did bears such a mark of nobility that there is absolutely no flaw in His behavior. I will briefly mention His betrayal as a final example. It was very late in the night, and men armed with torches, spears, and swords came to arrest this empty-handed Jesus. He asked them, "Whom do you seek?" They said, "Jesus the Nazarene" (John 18:7). He replied, "I told you that I am" (v. 8). At that very word, the band of rogues whose minds were set on capturing Him fell back to the ground. If Jesus had not voluntarily given Himself over to them, they would never have been able to seize Him. Such calmness and majesty can only be seen in Him!
As to the traitor, Jesus knew from the first day of his intention. Yet He allowed the same to follow Him and even let him be the keeper of the money. All the time Jesus knew that money was being stolen by him. Who can demonstrate such forbearance and uprightness? Here is a man who is absolutely different from all others. In every respect, He has been proven to be the Son of God.
The fourth qualification we mentioned is that one who claims to be God incarnated must be able to perform what an ordinary person cannot. Has Jesus of Nazareth performed any supernatural acts? We are not His contemporaries; it was almost two thousand years ago that He walked on earth. Naturally, we cannot be His witnesses. But one thing is sure: the apostles who followed Jesus recorded, preached, and testified the things concerning Him. The four Gospels were all completed within thirty years after His departure. Most of the Jews who were then alive had seen Jesus. If the apostles' records were false, they would have been repudiated long ago. However, the Jews only argued that Jesus is not the Son of God. They never denied His deeds, for the deeds were all facts.
Today, when we read the four Gospels, we have no apprehension about their authenticity. If there had been a slight error when they were written, there would have been grave problems because many of the contemporaries had actually seen and heard Jesus. There was no chance for any fabrication. Hence, these books cannot be a hoax. If the Jews could not attack these books, there is even less of a basis for an attack today.

Let us examine some of the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew 11:2 and 3 say, "Now when John heard in the prison of the works of the Christ, he sent word through his disciples and said to Him, Are You the Coming One, or should we expect another?" John wanted to make sure that Jesus was the Christ sent from God. If He was not, John would wait for another.
Verses 4 and 5 say, "And Jesus answered and said to them, go, report to John the things that you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; and the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel announced to them." Jesus answered neither "yes" nor "no." He only asked the messenger to tell John of the things heard and seen. He wanted John to think about them and decide for himself if Jesus was the Christ. Jesus proved His divinity by the miracles He performed. Here is a man who accomplished things that are impossible for human beings. You cannot help but confess that He is God.
John 7:31 says, "But many out of the crowd believed into Him and said, Will the Christ, when He comes, do more signs than this man has done?" Many people testified that He performed all kinds of miracles which no man could do.

John 10:24 says, "The Jews therefore surrounded Him and said to Him, How long will you hold our soul in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." On the one hand, the Jews hardened their hearts and refused to acknowledge His divinity, and on the other hand, they were puzzled by the many supernatural miracles that He performed. They gathered around Him and pressed for an answer. There is one thing in which Jesus never gave in: His claim to divinity. He performed what mortals could not. These acts testify to His divinity. He told the people clearly, "The works which I do in My Father's name, these testify concerning me" (v. 25). On the one hand, He made His claim, and on the other hand, He performed miracles to justify His claim.
In John 14:11 He said to His disciples, "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me." This is the same as saying that He is the invisible Father. "But if not, believe because of the works themselves." If He had not done anything impossible, this word would have had no value at all. If He had not performed any extraordinary acts, they would have asked back, "What works have you done? We do not know what you are talking about." But the disciples knew of the acts He did. All these acts prove that He is the Son of God.

We have to check Jesus of Nazareth against a fifth qualification. If He is God, He has to show us what He is. Is He kind, or is He severe? Is He gentle, or is He fierce? What kind of a God do we have? As a matter of fact, Jesus did show us what God is.
This is a most wonderful thing. The eternal, invisible God is now seen by us. There is no need to conjure up an untouchable and far transcendent God or imagine what He is like; He has revealed Himself to us. He has dwelt in our midst and walked among us. Jesus of Nazareth is the very God dwelling among and with man. He has manifested God's nature and attributes to us. There is no need to search for God anymore because He has revealed Himself. Our mentality is too limited. Our hands are too short, and our viewpoint too narrow. If we were left to ourselves to study and search for God, we could only conclude that He is the unknown One. Now we know that God desires to reveal Himself. In fact, He has revealed Himself to us already.

We have said that the two means whereby God communicates with us are the written and spoken language. For this reason, the Bible and Jesus of Nazareth are the two indispensable factors in our faith. When you take away either one, God becomes the gravest problem in the world. Hebrews 1:1 says, "God, having spoken of old in many portions and in many ways to the fathers in the prophets." These speaking constitute the Bible. "Has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son" (v. 2). This is Jesus of Nazareth. Whoever is in Christ now may know Him. To have heard the words of Jesus of Nazareth is to have heard the words of God.
Dear reader, what is your attitude towards Jesus of Nazareth? Thomas confessed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Peter proclaimed, "You are...the Son of the living God!" (Matt. 16:16). Martha said, "I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11:27). Even a Roman centurion exclaimed at the sight of Jesus hanging on the cross, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matt. 27:54b). I hope you will make the same confession





Our Christian faith is based upon the revelation of God. It is different from all other religions which are attained through meditation, conjecture, and searching. We believe that the Bible is God's revelation to us. In other words, it is His spoken word to us. We also believe that God has become a man, who is the very Jesus of Nazareth. God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ constitute the basis of our faith.

Let us begin by looking at the position that Christ occupies in our faith, or we may say, in Christianity. However, Christianity has been altered and is not what it ought to be. At the present we will not mention what Christianity ought to be. Rather, we will only draw a comparison between Christianity and other religions in order to see the distinctiveness of our faith. We will not try purposely to exalt Christianity and debase other religions. We will only draw an objective comparison between them.
First, let us consider Confucianism. Actually, followers of Confucius never formally assert that theirs is a religion. Confucianism merely exercises great influence on Chinese culture, education, ethics, and philosophy. One thing, however, is certain: the teachings and doctrines of Confucius are of foremost importance, while the person Confucius is not as crucial. I do not mean that Confucianism has no concern for Confucius. The man indeed was an extraordinary person. However, in order to be a part of Confucianism, one only need to understand the doctrines of Confucius, abide by his teachings, and be thoroughly acquainted with his books. It does not matter whether one understands the man Confucius or not. The principles, doctrines, and teachings of Confucius are the essence of the religion.

Next let us consider Buddhism. The founder of Buddhism was Sakya Muni. Once he preached to his disciples about evil persons being reincarnated through the Wheel of Rebirth after death. This is something that attracts man's attention. But in all of Buddhism, the point of emphasis is doctrines and theories. Concerning the man Sakya Muni, although he has a history and biography, they are something parenthetical. They do not form the crux of Buddhism. The center of the religion is not the man Sakya Muni. Whether there was such a person is unimportant to today's Buddhism. All that is needed are the doctrines and teachings.
Other religions such as Taoism and Mohammedanism are all of the same principle. After each founder set up a religion and left his teachings, doctrines, and regulations as the content of his religion, the founder himself was disassociated from the religion and had little to do with it.
But our faith is entirely different. From its outset, Christianity is built on the man Christ. It is not built on the doctrines and teachings of Christ. It is amazing that when you open the Bible, you will not find too many chapters of doctrines. Passages where pure doctrinal issues are expounded are rare and of less concern to people. What concerns one the most is the man Himself and what kind of person He is? All who have read the Bible know that the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are not outstandingly voluminous. His person draws our attention. He alone is the foundation of our faith.
The word Christ came from Greek, meaning the Anointed One. According to the Chinese, when a man takes up a task, he is given a letter of employment. The Jewish equivalent of this is anointing. When God summons a person for a work, He pours oil on the person as a seal of commission. Christ is the very God who was set apart to come to earth to be a man for the manifestation of God, in order that man may know God. Christ is the Anointed One. He is commissioned to such a task.

Due to this basic distinction, Christ is different from the founders of other religions. Once He asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Over and over again He demanded that His disciples believe in Him. He said that he who believes in the Son has eternal life. Again He said, "He who loves father or mother above me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37). Unless a man loves in this way, he is not worthy to be His disciple. Words such as these have been uttered only by Him. No other religious leader ever said anything like that. Confucius never said to Yen-weh or Tze-lu, "Believe in me," nor did he ever say, "Love me." Neither did any of the other leaders, such as Sakya Muni or Mohammed, demand of their disciple’s faith in them. All it takes to be their disciples is to believe in their doctrines.

Hence, the true Christian faith is based on a person. It is built on Christ and not on some doctrines. The crux of the true Christian faith is a question of who Jesus is! Is He merely a Jew? Is He only a prophet? Or is Jesus the Son of the living God? The whole matter hinges upon who Jesus of Nazareth is. The difference between a genuine Christian and a false one lies not in the knowledge of the doctrines of Christ. Rather, it lies in the knowledge of who Jesus is!
Who is this man from Nazareth? Since this is a crucial question related to our basic faith, we have to find the answer in the Bible. We will pay more attention to the Gospel of John and discover that only Christ Himself is the center of the Bible and the focus of the whole of Christianity.
Before taking up the Gospel of John, we have to take a look at the background of the book. Prior to the coming of Christ, a forerunner was sent by God to prepare a way for Christ that men might be ready to acknowledge Christ. The forerunner was John the Baptist. Because of his powerful preaching, many people were convicted. As a result, many thought that he was the Christ who was supposed to come.
But John 1:8 says, "He was not the light, but came that he might testify concerning the light." The light means Christ. He is called the light because light reveals and manifests. John was not the Christ. He was only bearing witness to Christ.
Concerning this light, verse 9 says, "This was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." In this dark world, if a person has Christ, he will know all about God. When this light shines forth, man will say, "Here is God." They will recognize the light as God.
Up to verse 9, we still do not know who this light is. Read on from verse 10 to verse 15: "He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, yet those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name, who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacle among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and reality. John testified concerning Him and cried out, saying, this was He of whom I said, He who is coming after me has become ahead of me, because He was before me." Have you realized, after reading the above verses, that all that is recorded here are actual facts, rather than many doctrines?

What did John the Baptist say about Christ? He said, "He...is...after me." And yet He who was after John would be before him. This is because Christ was before him in the first place. This is the beginning of the testimony of John the Baptist.
John 1:27: "He who is coming after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." The preaching of John is the beginning of our faith. He came just to tell others who Jesus of Nazareth is. Not only was Christ before John, He was so much greater than John that he was not worthy to untie the thong of His sandal and be His slave.
John 1:29: "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world?"
Verse 30: "This is He of whom I said, a man is coming after me who has become ahead of me, because He was before me." When John introduced Jesus, he said, "This is He"! (v. 30). The Gospel begins by showing us who Jesus is!
This is the word of the forerunner. But what about Christ? What did He say? We admit that in the Bible there are a few basic doctrines. For example, regeneration is one of the basic truths. Buddhism and Mohammedanism also talk about regeneration. In their teachings they teach that whatever is past is considered as dead yesterday, and whatever is hereafter is considered as born today. But what did Jesus say about regeneration? Let us look at the record of John 3.
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to Him by night" (vv. 1-2a).
Nicodemus was a ruler. He was also a learned and aged person. He came to Jesus to discuss some problems with Him, and Jesus brought up the matter of regeneration.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3).
Jesus showed Nicodemus the matter of regeneration, telling him that he needed to be born again. After Nicodemus heard this, he was confounded. He wondered how an old man could be born again. Did that mean that he had to go into his mother's womb and come out again? Jesus told him that this is not a birth of the flesh, but a birth of the spirit. If a man is not born of the Spirit, even if he could go into his mother's womb again, the flesh would still beget flesh. Only the Spirit begets spirit. Here you can see that even in such a basic and fundamental matter, Jesus did not expound much doctrine. He only mentioned a very simple fact—the need to be born again.

No wonder Nicodemus asked, "How can these things be?" Jesus told him that this is not an earthly matter. It is something heavenly. That is why he could not believe. How can a man be born again? "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believes into Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes into Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God" (vv. 13-18). Have you seen this? This is regeneration!
Jesus was saying that regeneration is not a doctrine. It believes into Him. To be born again is to believe into Him. If a man does not believe into Him, he cannot be regenerated. After saying so much, it all comes back to "Him."
What is our concept of regeneration? We think that if one was a thief yesterday and returns his booty to the owner today, that this is regeneration. Or, if one thought of having a mistress yesterday, but gives up that idea today, that this is regeneration. We think that as long as we quit doing whatever was bad in the past, considering it as dead, and strive to do well hereafter, we are born again. But this is man's concept. This is not the regeneration that Christ gives.
The way of Jesus depends on whether you believe into Him or not. He who believes into Him has eternal life! God gave His only begotten Son that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned. This is not a doctrine. It is a matter of the person. It is a relationship between Him and man.
Besides regeneration, there is another crucial matter, which we call Christian satisfaction. A genuine Christian feels that his hopes are fulfilled, his aspirations attained; he has no want; he is absolutely satisfied. But this satisfaction is very different from the contentment that people commonly talk about. Contentment is to see things in an optimistic way, to let things come and go by as they are without insisting on anything. There may not be much wealth or position. There may not be much honor or renown. But as long as one can live in peace and be left unbothered, that is good enough! This is contentment. But this is not satisfaction. When a person is satisfied, he feels that he has what he wants and that he has no more desires.

There is an excellent record in John 4. What did Jesus say to a Samaritan woman there? "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again" (v. 13). If you desire worldly glory, renown, wealth, position, etc., you will never be satisfied. When you have ten thousand dollars, you will want a hundred thousand, and when you have acquired a hundred thousand, you will start dreaming about a million. There will never be satisfaction. He who drinks of this water will thirst again.
How do you quench this thirst? The Lord Jesus said, "But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall by no means thirst forever" (v. 14). An amazing fact is that neither Confucius nor any other religious leader ever said such a thing. The teachings of Confucius and Mencius only tell you to be content and to abide in your poverty. The person Confucius or Mencius has nothing to do with your contentment. However, the person Jesus has a great deal to do with your thirst-quenching.
Naturally the woman desired to drink of this thirst-quenching water. When she asked Jesus for this living water, "Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water" (v. 10).
Was Jesus preaching a doctrine? No. There was no doctrine. The only thing He did was point to Him, as if to say, "Well, if you know who He is, you will ask of Him at once, and He will give you living water, that you may never thirst again." Have you seen this? The whole question is who Jesus of Nazareth is.
The Samaritan woman was not a decent woman. The fact that she had had six husbands showed what kind of woman she was. She must have been dissatisfied with this one and that one. One husband could not make her happy; another could not make her satisfied. As a result, she changed from one husband to another, and then to a third and a fourth, until she came to the sixth. One day she came out to draw water, a symbol of her being one that drinks and is still thirsty. The remarkable thing is that on that day, her life was changed. She became satisfied! What did she do? She did not do anything! On that day she realized who Jesus of Nazareth is and she was saved. Let us look again at the process through which she came to know Jesus.


"The woman said to Him, Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet" (v. 19). Because Christ told her everything that she ever did, she perceived that this was no ordinary man. He must be a prophet. Jesus said something more to show her that He was not merely a prophet: "Believe Me" (v. 21). The woman said, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will declare all things to us" (v. 25). What did Jesus answer her? He said, "I, who speak to you, am He" (v. 26). The first thing that a sinner needs to do is not to repent and change his behavior, but to realize who Jesus is. All will be well if he realizes who Jesus is. Later the woman returned to the city and told the people, "Come, and see a man who told me all that I have done. Is this not the Christ?" (v. 29). I do not like the words, "Is this not." Since she knew that this man was the Christ, why did she say, "Is this not"? At any rate, she believed and went to tell others that Christ had come. You can see clearly that the whole issue is not about doctrine but about a person! Our basic concern is not doctrines. Rather, it is seeing who Jesus is! Once we have the Lord Jesus, we will have real satisfaction; we will be filled with the sense of having acquired everything. We will see a little more from John 5. It seems that in chapter five the Lord Jesus spoke some doctrines. But actually not much was expounded. It was once again an invitation to receive the knowledge of who Jesus of Nazareth is. He spoke some words, but they were to lead us to believe into Him. The Lord Jesus said that the Jews searched the Scriptures. But the Scriptures, the Lord pointed out, are a witness to Him. What is written there concerns Him. It is important to know the Scriptures. But more important than that is the knowledge of who Jesus of Nazareth is. The question is not what kind of teaching He teaches, but what kind of a person He is when we come to John 6, the matter is brought out in an even clearer way. "Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall by no means hunger, and he who believes into me shall by no means ever thirst" (v. 35). He did not preach any doctrine. He just said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall by no means hunger." Have you seen the implication here? If I say that I am your bread of life and that he who eats me shall never hunger, you will surely say that Mr. Nee is a madman from Shanghai. Religious leaders can only give doctrines to others. They cannot give themselves to others. But Jesus is different. He is the bread of life. He is also the thirst-quenching water. The problem is in the people's unbelief in Him. When anyone believes in Him, everything will be all right."I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven that anyone may eat of it and not die" (vv. 48-50). These are words that no other can speak. Only Jesus can say this. He is neither a madman nor a liar. And whatever He says always points back to Him. This man is the bread of life. He who eats of Him shall not die! Hence, our Christian faith is based on the issue of who Jesus of Nazareth is. We are not spending time merely to study His teachings. We are only asked to answer one question: who is He? What Christ proclaimed persistently on the earth was not His doctrines but Himself. The focus is not on the doctrines but on the person. As far as doctrines go, the books of Confucius and Mencius are filled with philosophies, ethics, and morality; they far exceed those in the Bible. But there is only one issue: who is Jesus of Nazareth? Do you know? Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? Let us read on. John 6:51: "I am the living bread which came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread which I will give is My flesh, given for the life of the world."Here His words become more and more peculiar. It is strange enough to say that He is the bread of life which came down out of heaven. Now He says that he, who eats Him, not only will not die, but will live forever. This is extraordinary. Even more intriguing are the words that say that the bread He gives is His very flesh. No wonder the Jews at that time said that it was a hard saying. Who can take this? It is right! We never heard such words before. We never heard them from Confucius, from Mencius, from Lao-tze, from Chuan-tze, or from any other sages. We never heard them in China or in any other country. No man has ever spoken such words. After Christ spoke such words, verse 52 says, "The Jews then contended with one another, saying, how can this man give us His flesh to eat?" What doctrine did Jesus preach? None. All that He said was to eat His flesh. Verses 55 and 56 say, "For My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and me in him." You can see that He is only emphasizing Himself. This is not a set of doctrines. Rather, it is the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood. Those who eat and drink will live forever. When we come to John 7, we see the last day of a great feast. Jesus spoke some words in front of those who were attending the feast. "On the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes into me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water" (vv. 37-38). Just imagine: on one of our busy festive holidays, I, Watchman Nee, stand up in the midst of a crowd and shout, "If you are thirsty, come to me and drink. He who believes in me, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." What would you say? You would surely say that I am a senseless fool from Shanghai who is talking nonsense. But that was exactly what Jesus did and said. There was really no doctrine; there was just the person Christ. On that day when Jesus spoke those words, a dispute arose among the Jews. Some said that this truly had to be the Christ. Others reasoned how Christ could come out of Galilee. In trying to answer who this man was, an argument arose among the Jews. The argument centered around one thing: who was this Jesus of Nazareth? A genuine Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the Christ. Further on in John 8:12, Jesus told the crowd, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall by no means walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." You can see that again His words are not doctrinal. The emphasis here is the "light" and the "I." It is not the practice of His teachings that makes a Christian. Rather, it is a relationship with Christ that qualifies us as one. Only by believing into Him will we receive the light of life. Only by receiving Him will we not walk in darkness. John 8:21-22 says, "He said therefore again to them, I am going away, and you will seek me and will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come. The Jews then said, He is not going to kill Himself, is He, for He says, where I am going, you cannot come?" The Jews were confused again. Where is the place He is going that we cannot go? They thought that perhaps He was going to commit suicide. Actually if that place could be reached by committing suicide, the Jews could still get to it by killing themselves. How could the Lord go to a place to which they could not go? Verse 23 says, "And He said to them, you are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world." It is because of this that where the Lord was going they could not go. Furthermore, they did not die in their sins because they were murderers and adulterers. Verse 24 is crucial, especially the latter half: "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." The King James Version added the word "he" after "I am." Let us quote the words of the original text. The Lord said, "You will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." The question is whether or not you believe that He is. What does this mean? It means that of the millions of people in humanity, you can pick out one and say, "This is He! This is God!" We want to examine Jesus of Nazareth to see if He indeed is! If we believe that He is, we will not die in our sins. Many believe in a distorted Christianity, but we want to believe according to what Christianity really is. The first question we must ask is whether or not Jesus of Nazareth is. Once again the Jews retorted by asking, "Who are you?" (v. 25). Jesus' answer seemed to say, "This is not the first time that I tell you who I am. Concerning this matter I have never given in. I told you that I am; I am the One." Time after time He proved to others that He is; He is the Son of God. If we read the Gospel of John through, we will find that every passage concerns this one point: Jesus is the Christ. In John 10 the Jews surrounded Him and said, "How long will you hold our soul in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly" (v. 24). The question still hung on this one point. How did Jesus answer? He said, "I told you, and you do not believe...You do not believe, because you are not of my sheep" (vv. 25-26). All who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is God incarnated as a man, is not Christians. Those who do not recognize Him as the Son of God do not have the life of Christ in them; they are not His sheep. Upon this issue stands the whole basis of the Christian faith. In John 11 Jesus said again, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes into me, even if he should die, shall live" (v. 25). Can a common mortal utter such words? In John 12 Jesus cried out aloud, "He who believes into me does not believe into me, but into Him who sent me; and he who beholds me beholds Him who sent me. I have come as a light into the world, which every one who believes into me would not remain in darkness" (vv. 44-46). You can see that the One who sent Him hinges on Him. To believe into Him is to believe into the One who sent Him. To see Him is to see the One who sent Him. The light also hinges on Him. To be in the light is to believe into Him. Everything hinges on Him. Then in John 14 the Lord said, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe into God, believe also into me" (v. 1). He wants us to believe into Him in the same way that we believe into God. The one thing He always insists upon is the demand to believe in Him. John 15 speaks of some who hate the Lord. He said, "He who hates me hates My Father also" (v. 23). Once again He reveals that He and the Father are one. In John 16, the Lord said that one day the Holy Spirit would come and convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. Why concerning sin? The explanation is in verse 9: "Concerning sin, because they do not believe into me," because they do not believe that He is the Son of God. This is a sin, a very serious sin. When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict men, and they will realize how serious a sin it is not to believe in Jesus being the Son of God. One further passage in the Gospel of John will suffice. 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ." Here we are shown what eternal life is. The Lord's definition of eternal life is to know God. Believing in the eternal God and believing in His sent One—Jesus Christ—is eternal life. Eternal life hinges upon this person. I hope that we would all realize who Jesus of Nazareth is. Our faith does not have any empty doctrines. It is based on the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. To receive Jesus Christ is to receive God.



THE DIFERENCE BETWEEN A PERSON AND TEACHING

We have said that Christianity does not emphasize doctrines. Rather, it emphasizes the person Christ. Even when some doctrines are mentioned, they are few in number, and when you go about expounding them, they always point back to a person. If you turn to the four Gospels you will be amazed to find that everything recorded is just a description of Jesus of Nazareth. There must first be the knowledge of who He is; doctrines come afterwards. We have ascertained the person of Jesus Christ. Now we want to take a look at the doctrines of our faith.

You cannot find many doctrines in the four Gospels. Neither are there many doctrines in the Acts of the Apostles. One finds doctrines only after coming to Romans. This is exactly what we have said before; that you have to know who Jesus Christ is before you can understand what His doctrines are all about.
Concerning doctrines, there is also a vast difference between those in Christianity and those in other religions. I would like to mention again that the fact that I am a Christian does not mean that you have to feel and see things as I do. I will not take such a presumptuous attitude. I will only present the facts again, showing the difference between Christianity and other religions. I will not decide what is good or bad. You are asked only to examine the facts. If you think that this is right, then believe in it. Otherwise, take your choice. Emotional words are unnecessary here. I will, therefore, make no plea or invitation.
Observing all the religions that are before us, you will see that all of them emphasize doctrines, not a person. Whether Confucius or Lao-tze, who they are and what they teach are two different things. They are two separate entities. Their doctrines do not have much to do with their person. You can take the person away from the religion, and it will not make much difference. The person only preached the doctrines, but he became disassociated from that which he preached.
This is not the case with our faith. When did Christian doctrines come into existence? It was after the death, resurrection, and departure from the world of the person Christ that the doctrines began. All doctrines came later. Moreover, all these doctrines are centered upon Christ. The doctrines and Christ are inseparable. First you have Him, and then you have His doctrines.

For example, there is a doctrine in Christianity that speaks of the union of God and man. It is a very important doctrine. If you open the Bible to see how this can be, you will see that the source of such a doctrine is the fact that God became a man—Jesus. He is God mingled with man.
The Bible does not present a doctrine of God becoming one with man. Rather, it shows Jesus of Nazareth, who is a sample of God being one with man. Originally, God and man were separate; there was a wide gulf between them. There was no possibility of union. But the Nazarene came. He was God coming to be a man. He was the bridge between man and God, joining the two into one. This is not a doctrine that teaches people to be one with God. Here is the fact: henceforth, when a man is in Christ, he can be one with God.

THE SOLUTION
Another very important doctrine in the Bible concerns death. The Bible depicts man as being totally corrupted, without any possibility of being reformed. The only solution is death. A man is like a piece of worm-infested wood with no chance of being carved or shaped. The only destiny for him is the fire. Death is the solution. Only dead people will not be proud if you praise them a thousand times. Only dead people will not be angry if you rebuke them repeatedly. Only dead people will not be tempted by sin and will not sin. Death solves all problems concerning sin.
But how can we die? How can such a death occur? A religion will exhort you to die. Be dead! If you are dead, sin will no longer have an object to work on! But how can one die? By committing suicide? By throwing oneself into the sea? Or as the old Chinese scholars have said, by considering everything that is past as dead yesterday? No! All these are methods of common religions. They are not the Christian teaching.

EXPERIENCES BASED ON A PERSON


The doctrine of death is absolutely related to Christ. His person determines His doctrines. Jesus died. What does the Bible say about this? It says that the world died with Him (2 Cor. 5:14). His death was to sin; hence, the whole world is dead to sin. Originally, the whole world was in sin, being dead in it. Only Jesus was not affected by death. He did not die of sin; He died to sin (Rom. 6:10). If we are one with Him, we are also dead to sin by His death (v. 11). Sin will not have an object to work on. All the problems of sin in us will be solved.
This is the doctrine of Christianity. It is a fact that is absolutely tied to the person Christ. It is not an exhortation for people to conduct a moral life and repent from their wrongs. These are not Christian doctrines at all. Since Christ has died, whoever is in Him is also dead, thoroughly dead, to sin. Sin has no more grips on us. If Christ had not died, there would not have been any doctrine. All experiences and doctrines are based upon this person Jesus Christ.

Another fact we have is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died and was resurrected. Hence, on our side, we are not only dead to sin, disassociated from it; we are regenerated and a new creation in the resurrection of Christ. All these are bound to the person Jesus Christ. No accomplishment is by us. Everything depends on Him.

The Bible is not completely void of teachings. However, all the teachings rest on the person Christ Jesus. Only when He has a certain experience can there be a certain doctrine or teaching. Every single doctrine or teaching is bound to His personal experience. His incarnation is the basis of the union of God with man. His death is the basis of our dying to sin and self and the foundation of a life of holiness. His resurrection is the basis for receiving our new life. Everything we have obtained is based on what He has attained. The doctrines are absolutely based upon the person and bound to the person. This is genuine Christianity. This makes our faith different from all other religions.

MAJOR RELIGIONS DEMAND TO BE HONEST
Once when Christ Jesus was about to leave the world, He spoke of a very amazing doctrine. Of course, this doctrine is again closely related to Him. He said, "I am the way and the reality and the life" (John 14:6). Perhaps you have heard others quote this passage. He said that He is the way. He is the way to overcome sin. He is the way to overcome the temptations of the world. He is His own teaching! All the ways to victory are Him.
He also said that He is the reality. We have often heard people say that there is reality in So-and-so's words. Sometimes when someone puts forth a theory, we call it reality. In geometry, when we have proved that this equals that, we say that we found a truth. But the reality that Christ Jesus speaks of is He. He is the reality.
Moreover, He is the life. He does not merely preach a doctrine and ask you to work it out yourself; He is the very life-power to perform what He preaches. Religion tells you to be honest and not to lie. Maybe someone has come and told you, "Exercise yourself not to lie. Every time you lie just bite your tongue once." I think that if we were able to recognize every lie we told, our tongue would be in two pieces before the day was over! Since our life is a human life, there is no possibility for us to not lie or sin. The life of man is absolutely impotent in this respect. Merely to give you some nice, lofty doctrines, while leaving it up to you to work them out, is not the way of Christ.
The Bible says that He makes you able. That ability is of Christ. As long as you are in Him, He is your life. He can make you not lie, no matter what kind of a person you are!

No other founder of a religion is great enough to uphold these three items: the way, the reality, and the life. All of man's experiences are included in these three things. Whenever you do something, you always have to decide whether or not it is worth doing. This consideration is a weighing of the reality. After the decision is made, you have to find a way. And after the way, you must have the power. Whenever you set out to accomplish something, you always have to pass through these three steps: the way, the reality, and the life.
All three are inseparable. You are not given reality first, then the way, and then left to yourself to find the life. Every one of these three items is found in one person. When you have Him, every problem will be solved. This is Jesus. This is our faith. As long as there is a way to Him, everything will follow.
TEACHING USSELES WHITHOUT HIM
when we look at a few passages in the Bible, we easily discover that when the Bible mentions a doctrine, it always says that it is "in Christ." The words "in Christ" are constantly mentioned. Some passages say, "By Christ." But "by Christ" is not the best translation. It is better in those instances to translate them as "through Christ." God does not give things to us directly; they have to go "through Christ." In addition, there are phrases like "with Christ" and "together with Christ." They show the position Christ occupies in the Bible. Everything has to be through Him. Receiving Him is receiving His doctrines. Without Him it is useless to have any of His doctrines.

NO RELATIONSHIP IN THEIR CREEDS

The above cannot apply to all other religions. You can be a devotee of other religions, abiding by their every creed, without having anything to do with the founders themselves.
In arithmetic, there is a table called the multiplication table. You can find the product of any two numbers from one to nine from the table. Everything is arranged neatly. Do you know who formulated this table? I am afraid that millions who use this table never know who made it. But you can use this table without knowing the person who made it. All common religions are like this: you need not have anything to do with their founders, but you can apply their doctrines. The doctrines and those who preached them have no relationship with each other.
In Kaifeng I met a foreign missionary. He had heard my preaching. I discovered that he was related to the doctrines of Christ but not to Christ Himself. He told one of my former classmates, who is also now my co-worker, how to practice the teachings of Christ and expound the theologies in the Bible. My co-worker asked him, "Can you touch people by these? Has anybody repented, forsaken his sins, and had his life changed by your preaching? Do you have such power?" He was dumbfounded by my co-worker's words.
RELATIONSHIP
The source of our faith is Christ. If we have no relationship with Christ, we have no power. The doctrines of Christ are absolutely joined to Christ. The gem of the doctrines lies in Christ. It is useless to merely infer and discuss in an outward way.
Let us now look at the book of Romans in the New Testament. I will not give many explanations. Rather, I will merely present the facts to you. We want to see what the Bible says.
Romans 3:22, 24: "Even the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ to all those who believe, for there is no distinction; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." These verses say that a man receives forgiveness of sins and justification before God by the redemption of Christ Jesus. They are based on a relationship with Christ. Without redemption, the sins of man cannot be forgiven.
ALL IS RECIEVED
Romans 5:1: "Therefore having been justified out of faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Verse 2: "Through whom also we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and boast because of the hope of the glory of God."
Verse 10: "For if we, being enemies, were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more we will be saved in His life, having been reconciled."
Verse 11: "And not only so, but also boasting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."
Everything that we have received, such as justification, reconciliation, standing in grace, salvation, joy in God, etc., is received through Jesus Christ. Simply by going through Him, we inherit all these.

THE GIFT
Romans 5:15: "But it is not that as the offense was, so also the gracious gift is; for if by the offense of the one the many died, much more the grace of God and the free gift in grace of the one man Jesus Christ have abounded to the many."
Verse 17: "For if by the offense of the one death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will rein in life through the One, Jesus Christ."
Because of Jesus Christ, the grace and gift of God can be bestowed upon all men. We can also reign in life due to Him. Verse 21 says, "In order that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The receiving of eternal life is through Him. It does not depend on the good behavior of man.
THE PERSON
Romans 6:6: "Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin as slaves."
Verse 17: "But thanks are to God that though you were slaves of sin, you have obeyed from the heart the form of teaching into which you were delivered."
This is a vital doctrine in our belief: that by faith, we are crucified with Christ, and the old man is annulled. I do not crucify myself. When Christ was crucified, I was crucified with Him. By this I am set free from sin, being no longer a slave to it. In this way I can reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. This is a big doctrine that hinges on the person Christ.
LIBERATED
Romans 7:24-25: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks are to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then with the mind I I serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin."
Here is a man who was constantly defeated by his own fleshly lusts. When he was at the end of his hopes, crying for deliverance, he saw the way of salvation: liberation by the Lord Jesus Christ. The power of liberation is also in the Lord.

Romans 8:1: "There is now then no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. "Condemnation" does not refer to any ordinary kind of condemnation. According to some recently discovered old manuscripts of the Bible found in Egypt, this word has two meanings. The first is a legal term; the second is a common daily expression. In the legal context it means condemnation as a verdict. But in its ordinary usage it means impotent, powerless, bound, etc. For this reason I will translate this portion as, "There is now then no impotence..." There is no more weakness and inability.
Verse 2: "For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death." Here are two laws. Originally, we were all bound by the law of sin and of death. Now the law of the Spirit of life has freed us; we are no longer under the control of the law of sin and of death. The law of the Spirit of life is in Christ Jesus. Have you seen this? Once again, our relationship with Him sets us free.
Verse 10: "But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness." Since Christ is in me, I can live.
MORE THAN CONQUERORS IN HIM
Romans 8:35, 37: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? But in all these things we more than conquer through Him who loved us." Although there is so much trouble outwardly, we are still more than conquerors. Strength is obtained by going through Him. Not that we are able in ourselves. It is all by Him and through Him.
In the same manner, verses 38 and 39 say, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Why can nothing separate us from His love? It is not because of our virtues, but because this love is "in Christ Jesus our Lord"! Love is tied to the person Christ. When we are in Christ, we are in this inseparable love.

rclough said...

A biologist thought himself shrewd
And sat back in victorious mood.
He'd proved there's no God
And thought it not odd
He'd disproven what no one had proved.

rclough said...

A biologist thought himself shrewd
And sat back in victorious mood.
He'd proved there's no God
And thought it not odd
He'd disproven what no one had proved.